The global shift in automotive production has led to an unprecedented demand for lithium resources. As most motor companies move into the EV market, the first major hurdle is to source battery components. One of the largest producers of battery-grade lithium is speeding up production on its resources to meet demands.
Albemarle Corporation, a leading global producer of lithium, bromine and catalyst solutions, is able to fast-track the production of the advanced lithium forms required for car manufacturers. This could result in better battery products for the EV industry.
A new lab has been established in North Carolina based on the premise that Albermarle will use it to develop lithium products. The company’s Chief Technology Officer, Glen Merfeld, believes the new premises will allow it to produce these lithium forms two to three times faster. Albermarle will test some mobile-phone-sized samples to see whether the lithium concoction works in new electric car models - a process that usually takes months at a manufacturing facility.
According to Merfeld the lab will accelerate the process, which was previously “an incredibly slow process and was really arms-length.” But there are still some challenges with this plan. Lithiums samples are not always the same, therefore the lab will need to scruitnise each sample based on the battery and vehicles it will be used in. The Lithium used will have to perform correctly and have the right crystal structure, particle size, and level of purity. As can be expected, car manufacturers are jumping at the chance to procure lithium for their green-vehicle production.
Lithium Innovation Means More Power
The lab is also creating some razor-thin, foil-like forms of lithium. Also to be used in battery technology, these forms of lithium with be capable of producing more power in a smaller form - at just 20 microns in thickness. Albermarle is also working on thinner forms, including some that will be three to five microns thick. This could ultimately reduce cost by 50%.
Lithium foils could also replace graphite, which is an expensive component for EV batteries. According to Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer at Tesla, the company promised a US$25,000 EV, but it would have to reduce the amount of graphite and cobalt in its batteries.