It is clear that the lithium it will be the new gold for decades to come. The enormous growth that the incorporation of the electric car In our daily life it means that 90% of the demand for this material comes from this sector. Seeing the boom that the segment is taking, the investment fund of Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, just invested $ 10 million in a startup that could revolutionize the environment of the extraction and use of lithium.
The aforementioned company is called Mangrove Lithium as of today it has only 7 employees and has neither clients nor income. What has caught the attention of the American magnate has been the plan that the startup has to revolutionize the lithium sector, and it is none other than condensing a specific part of the supply chain of this material, converting raw lithium into material for batteries in a much faster and more efficient way than the one currently used.
The growing demand for electric cars will make lithium become a fundamental part for car manufacturers in the coming years. The added difficulty comes from being able to satisfy this very high demand, and not because lithium is a limited material (which is also), but because an important bottleneck has been created in the derivation necessary to go from raw lithium to the final material. used by the battery industry. That’s where the Mangrove Lithium firm’s working environment is.
The business plan goes through shorten times and reduce transformation costs that this requires. The lithium market sector goes through five phases: mining and extraction, chemical processing, manufacturing of battery components, assembling batteries, and finally production for end use. The application environment for Mangrove Lithium’s activity will focus on the second point of the process (chemical processing).
“The current problem with lithium mining and processing in general is that it is quite inefficient,” explains Ian Hayton, a materials and chemicals analyst at research and consulting company Cleantech Group. “With the current lithium extraction process, you probably only get about 50% of the lithium from actual brine or hard rock.” With Mangrove Lithium technology this percentage rises to 90%, increasing extraction and processing efficiency.
The work process carried out in the startup promises a more efficient method, in which the lithium hydroxide or carbonate being produced does not interact with other chemicals, which means creating a high-quality end product for future electric car batteries. When the company can carry out the implementation of its work plan, this will represent a 40% reduction in current cost of lithium hydroxide for batteries and will improve the internal rate of return for brine production and refining projects, which will mean reduced processing time at a significantly lower cost.
This method seems to have impressed Zheng Chen, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, but not before expressing his own doubts about the project. This professor delves into how impressive the launch of the Saad Dara idea has been, but that its durability over time and its viability in the face of the expected increase in demand can be extraordinarily complicated, although he also assures that if this is possible will be a major change for today’s industry.
Mangrove Lithium only has one pilot plant that is operating in the city of Vancouver, but with the money acquired through the investment of Breakthrough Energy Ventures they hope to build their first plant at an industrial level, and in their plans is to obtain their first benefits next year 2022.
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Bill Gates invests in a company that will revolutionize the lithium sector