Portable electronics and electric cars both need a steady supply of lithium, and while the world has plenty of it (at least for the foreseeable future), hardly any is produced in the U.S. That is about to change, as a California startup aims to produce lithium from the waste product of another 21st century new-energy technology: Geothermal power plants.
The noise about “Peak Lithium”—the idea that not enough economically extractable lithium exists in the world to support a large-scale switch to cars powered by lithium-based batteries—has quieted significantly in the past year, but I still sometimes get asked: Are we going to run out of this stuff?
Not any time soon. In fact, as a noted market analyst made clear this morning, so many companies are developing so many lithium deposits around the world that many of them will probably go out of business, because they’re on track to dramatically oversupply the world with lithium.
Lithium is cheap and widely available, so why do we care about a new resource in a war zone? Because it’s another counter to the irrational fear that the automobile’s lithium-powered electric future is doomed before it begins
Immediately after the New York Timespublished a report last week of the Pentagon's "discovery" of nearly $1 trillion worth of mineral reserves in Afghanistan, the backlash began. The U.S. Geological Survey released a report on the country's mineral reserves in 2007, it turned out. Why was this coming up now? The bloggers pounced. By the end of the week, the accepted wisdom was that there was nothing new in this latest piece of government spin.
Drowned in the noise, however, was a fascinating bit of news: that just this month a Pentagon team was hunting for minerals in Afghanistan's dry lakes, and that early findings suggested that one site alone might contain more lithium than Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, which is believed to hold up to half the world's known supply.
Right now, every mining company CEO in the world has one thing on the mind: Afghanistan.
Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that American geologists have discovered an estimated $1 trillion worth of untapped geological resources there, including vast reserves of rare earth metals and lithium, which are becoming increasingly sought-after for high-tech manufacturing. The cache is large enough to have profound geopolitical implications. But judging by the state of play at another remote, developing-world mineral stash—the lithium deposits of Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, which I recently visited—it's not easy to go from desolation to natural-resource riches. Updated.
For decades, scientists have debated whether or not gasses could display the same magnetic properties as solids. Now, thanks to some MIT scientists, they know the answer is a freezing cold yes.
MIT researchers have observed magnetism in an atomic gas of lithium cooled down to 150 millionths of a degree above absolute zero. This experiment represents a point of unification between condensed matter research and the field of atomic science and lasers, and could influence areas such as data storage and medical diagnostics.