Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

A company says they can capture lithium from a byproduct of geothermal power plant operation.

Clean Power

Startup to Capture Lithium from Geothermal Power Plants

A company says they can capture lithium from a byproduct of geothermal power plant operation.

A startup company called Simbol Materials believes it can increase the domestic (U.S) production of lithium by capturing it, in addition to zinc and manganese, from the brine used by geothermal power plants.

The brine mentioned is actually a very hot fluid that is pumped from a hot area deep in the earth’s crust, and the heat it contains is used to boil water to produce steam.

A geothermal power plant is a form of steam power plant (although it doesn’t have to be steam-powered).

Demand for lithium is expected to increase due to increasing demand for portable electronics, such as laptops, cell phones, and iPads, and more, as well as anticipated increases in hybrid and electric vehicle demand.

You may be concerned when you find that elemental lithium is rare, but please note that is not where the lithium for li-ion batteries is obtained. It is extracted from non-elemental lithium compounds (not pure lithium), such as lithium carbonate, lithium brine, hectorite clay, lithium hydroxide, and other sources.

In the 1990’s, the U.S produced 75% of the world’s lithium carbonate, and now it produces only 5% of it. This is partially due to the fact that the U.S does not produce it as cheaply as Chile does. And this could be due to multiple reasons, one of them being low wages. Wages and salaries are an important part of the cost of production, and in some economies, such as the Chinese and Chilean ones, workers are sometimes paid extremely low wages,.. an unfortunate way to lower the cost of products.

Mining, in general, has at least some environmental impact, but due to the fact that geothermal power plants pump lithium containing fluid up from underground anyway, it is an environmentally (and possibly economically) wise idea to obtain lithium, manganese, and zinc from that fluid, as it reduces the need for mining.

Another idea is to cut the cost of both geothermal power (in areas where it would normally be too expensive) and lithium by also using the power plant as a lithium production facility, so the money invested in the plant could also be stretched to facilitate lithium, manganese, and zinc production.

Who knows what’s next — someone may even use the wasted heat from geothermal steam engines to heat water.

h/t: Technology Review | Photo Credit: Simbol Materials

Related Stories:

  1. Geothermal Energy Could Power Entire U.S. (Maybe)
  2. Geothermal Plant Supplies ~20% of Hawaii’s Electricity
  3. Ormat Supplies Recovered Energy Generation To DOE Oilfield Geothermal Test
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:


You May Also Like


Volkswagen battery supplier Gotion has revealed a new lithium-manganese-iron-phosphate battery it says can go 1000 km.

Clean Transport

A CleanTechnica interviewee argues that automakers cannot make the excuse that it's too complicated to know who their suppliers are and how their suppliers...


Gabriel Boric, president of the world’s second largest producer of lithium, Chile, announced on April 20 that the country was adopting a “National Lithium...


Rethink Energy recently produced a report, available for purchase here, that analyzes the surge in battery raw material demand in the near future. The...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.