Getting More Lithium, Sustainably — Summit Nanotech

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The EV revolution is built on many things, but perhaps nothing else more than lithium. We need lithium for every type of EV battery for every type of vehicle that needs to be electrified. The challenge we’ve talked about for the past few years is that it takes several years to build a lithium extraction facility, and getting the adequate investments years or a decade in advance is a big struggle.

One company looking to help out here is Summit Nanotech. The startup is also aiming to extract lithium in more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. I recently spoke to Summit Nanotech’s CEO and Founder, Amanda Hall, about what her company is doing to help.

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“We have developed a sustainable lithium extraction process. And sustainable can mean many things to many people, but in particular, we focused on low water use, low energy use, and bringing down our greenhouse gas emissions as well reducing waste production and reagent use. So, we kind of attack the sustainability aspect of an extraction process from lots of different angles. We’re deploying the technology into the brine space. Lithium mining happens in hard rock or brine. We don’t deal with the hard rock mining; we work with brine miners in South America. The technology can be used to pull lithium out of brine, which is saltwater. And we also do an improvement on yield, so we get double the yield compared to conventional processes.

“So the technology’s working great. It’s piloting right now in Chile. We have 6 pilot partners and it’s going quite well.

“I’m a geophysicist, and so I look at the mining problem for battery metals as something we need to really approach delicately, as stewards of the Earth, and as humans who want a better future. We can’t just start ripping up the ground and making batteries without putting a lot of thought into doing it sustainably and doing it well. And so that’s what our company focuses on.”

In South America, they’re creating a lithium carbonate product with partners in Chile and Argentina. That goes to cathode producers. In North America, the company creates a lithium hydroxide product from a clay feedstock.

That’s from just about 3 minutes of the 27-minute interview. I asked Amanda to also tell us a bit more about who she is and how she got into this field as well as some recent fundraising from very notable investors. And I asked her about her big-picture view of the lithium market globally. For one thing, she sold her house to start the company. For much more on all of that, listen to the whole episode.

As one final teaser, Summit Nanotech says its direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology has the potential to reduce production time from 18 months to 1 day! Again, listen to the episode for more on that.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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