In the future, certain technologies will become more and more relevant. One of these technologies is the battery, because in the coming decades we will need more and more energy storage devices in order to have electricity always available. Regardless of whether it is smartphones, electric cars or feeding excess energy into the power grid, nothing works without a battery.
It is therefore no wonder that the market is becoming more and more competitive. It even goes so far that Tesla and Volkswagen want to get into the raw material supply. Researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia will soon have a suitable solution ready: Why not just extract the lithium from the ocean?
It sounds a bit crazy, but the facts speak for the new approach. There is around 5,000 times more lithium in the ocean than on all land masses on earth. The only problem is concentration. There is just 0.2 parts of lithium for every 1 million parts of water. So the scientists had to be very resourceful in their process of extracting this amount.
To put it simply, the whole thing works something like this: An electrochemical cell is enclosed by a ceramic membrane. The water is attracted to the cell, but the crystal structure of the membrane is only big enough for lithium ions to fit through. Lithium is separated from the rest of the water bit by bit.
Extracting 1 kilogram of lithium would cost $ 5 in electricity costs. In addition to lithium, the cell also produces hydrogen and chlorine with an equivalent value of over 5 dollars. Thus, the process is extremely profitable, is based on green electricity and sustainable materials, and could be managed in a climate-neutral manner. Until it is ready for the market, the researchers want to optimize the membrane and make the process more efficient.
When extracting raw materials, the ways are not always obvious. The scientists from Saudi Arabia show to what extent we can generate lithium easily and on all coasts of the world, so hopefully sufficient reserves should be available for the extensive areas of application of the future.