03/06/2021 - 15:07

New SiLeach patent adds to Lithium Australia LFP battery push

03/06/2021 - 15:07

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Lithium Australia has taken an important step towards becoming a key player in lithium ferro phosphate battery, or “LFP” supply chains, securing an Australian patent for its innovative SiLeach technology. SiLeach is used to recover lithium from micas and clays to produce lithium phosphate, a vital ingredient in LFP batteries that will power Tesla 3 electric vehicles.

SiLeach pilot plant operations. Credit: File

Lithium Australia has taken an important step towards becoming a key player in lithium ferro phosphate battery, or “LFP” supply chains, securing an Australian patent for its innovative SiLeach technology. SiLeach is used to recover lithium from micas and clays to produce lithium phosphate, a vital ingredient in LFP batteries that will power Tesla 3 electric vehicles.

The first-generation patent from IP Australia complements one secured in the US. Lithium Australia has lodged further first-generation patent applications for SiLeach in Europe, Canada, Brazil and Chile.

Second-generation patent applications incorporating SilLeach process improvements have also been lodged in all of these jurisdictions.

The company has successfully operated two generations of SiLeach pilot plants at Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation laboratories in New South Wales.

Management says the SiLeach flowsheet design consists of unique fluorine removal and control steps. It is also said to achieve optimum water balance to allow for lithium recovery from dilute process liquors generated during the SiLeach process. This can eliminate the requirement for evaporation that exists in competing processes, leading to significant capital and operating cost benefits.

The SiLeach process also scores highly on the environmental ledger, taking fluorine out of the circuit and cutting hydrofluoric acid production.

SiLeach also allows for direct precipitation and refining of lithium as a phosphate that can be a direct feed into LFP cathode powder production.

Lithium Australia says it has already used SiLeach to produce LFP cathode powder from tri-lithium phosphate, with subsequent manufacture of battery cells generating positive results.

Management says the supply of tri-lithium phosphate to LFP producers eliminates the need for lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate that is used in some LFP production processes, resulting in a shortened supply chain.

Lithium Australia Managing Director, Adrian Griffin said:

"The SiLeach process can produce a range of lithium chemicals, including lithium carbonate and lithium phosphate. Significantly, the use of lithium phosphate is the shortest route to the production of LFP batteries, which is also advantageous from an environmental, social and governance perspective. Granting of the Australian SiLeach patent is timely, given increased interest in the extraction of lithium from clays in North America, and even more so now that Chinese LFP production in the March 2021 quarter alone almost eclipsed the entire 2020 production.”

Mr Griffin said lithium and phosphorus required to manufacture LFP were both produced by SiLeach as a single lithium chemical.

He said: “It has been shown that the lithium phosphate product from SiLeach can be directly used in the manufacture of LFP cathode powder.”

Lithium Australia says LFP batteries offer a range of advantages over competing nickel-cobalt batteries, including lower cost and better longevity. They could also deliver battery management and supply chain gains.

Benefits of LFP technology seem to be getting traction in key markets.

The Chinese-produced Tesla 3 electric vehicle is reportedly being rolled into 10 European nations, whilst leading Chinese lithium-ion battery producer, BYD is also introducing its Han sedan to European markets.

Lithium Australia believes regulatory changes in North America and Europe could lead to mandatory fire protection for electric vehicles that could speed LFP technology uptake.

 

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au

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