A literature review prepared by Berkeley Lab scientists found that geothermal brines in the Salton Sea region of California are expected to be a major source of domestic lithium for the United States in the future but that significant technical challenges have to be overcome.
One of the main obstacles is that brine is extremely hot when it comes out of the subsurface, and it contains a rich stew of many dissolved minerals in addition to lithium.
“It comes out at over 100 degrees Celsius,” Will Stringfellow, lead author of the paper, said in a media statement. “So, you have to deal with the heat. And it’s very, very saline – about 25% by weight.”
Stringfellow pointed out that there are many materials in the mix that could potentially interfere with the extraction. “There is a lot of salt, meaning a lot of sodium, a lot of chloride. There’s also a lot of calcium and magnesium, and other things like iron and silicon,” he said.
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