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Lithium - An Overview

- Lithium (chemical symbol Li), 3rd element in periodic table

- A small soft silver-grey metal with atomic weight of 6.9 g/mole making it the smallest of the metal atoms in the periodic table

- Member of the Alkali group of metals

- A strong alloy when combined with metals such as magnesium

- Used in batteries, glass, ceramics, lubricants, cameras, mobile phones, laptops, computers, PDA's

- Lithium-ion batteries used to power electric bicycles (e-bikes), vehicles and mass energy storage systems

- Lithium battery growth 15-20% pa for the past ten years

- Batteries currently estimated at ~26% of total global lithium demand

Lithium Demand

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, demand for lithium minerals and chemicals has grown steadily at 10% to 15% per annum. The primary growth in demand was in lithium batteries, glass and ceramic segments. Within the lithium battery sector, growth areas have been in batteries for laptops, mobile phones, ipads and ebook readers. Demand for lithium in the electric vehicle segment is forecast to grow exponentially as global car manufacturers launch new models to secure electric vehicle market share. The electric bike segment is also growing, especially in China.

China’s demand for lithium for use in a wide range of transport applications growing and adoption of lithium battery technology across a number of applications and transport sectors will drive the future of electric vehicles. Some of the major applications and uses include:

- Light personnel transportation – for two-wheeled motorbikes and scooters and for three-wheeled hybrid vehicles such as Smart-sized electric cars;

- Heavy transportation applications – including public trains and buses; and

- Logistics industry – high torque requirement areas such as forklifts, scissor lifts and transport buggies.

- China is leading the way in the area of electric vehicles with its adoption of wide ranging applications that sees it adopting targets and policies including the following:

- Targeting to have 5 million electric vehicles by 2020;

- Aiming for up to 50% of government fleet vehicles to be new energy vehicles;

- Pushing “green” technologies that include targeting to have 4.8 million charging stations and city transportation fleets of 200,000 electric buses; and

- Driving the continued conversion of the more than 200m electric bikes from lead acid batteries to lithium batteries.

Lithium Uses

LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES

The lithium-ion battery sector is one of the largest consumers of lithium, currently estimated to be at approximately 26% of total global lithium demand. Lithium-ion batteries (sometimes abbreviated Li-ion or Li batteries) are a type of rechargeable battery in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode (anode) to the positive electrode (cathode) during discharge, and from the cathode to the anode when charged. Lithium-ion batteries are common in portable consumer electronics because of their high energy-to-weight ratios, lack of memory effect, and slow loss of charge when not in use. In addition to consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries are increasingly used in defence, automotive and aerospace applications due to their high energy density. They are generally much lighter than other types of rechargeable batteries of the same size. The electrodes of a lithium-ion battery are made of lightweight lithium and carbon.

GLASS AND CERAMICS

Lithium oxide's very low co-efficient of thermal expansion makes it ideal for heat-proof ovenware and ceramic cook tops to withstand the thermal shock of rapid temperature changes.

OTHER USES

Lithium is also used in lubricating greases that consists of mineral oil thickened with lithium, pharmaceuticals, catalysts and other lithium compounds, air conditioning, dehumidification systems, welding electrodes, nucleonics, luminescent paints, varnishes and dyes, rubber and aluminium production.