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Wheal Jane Laboratory

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Battery Elements

Over the last twenty or so years the use of lithium-ion batteries in phones and electric vehicles has brought numerous analytical projects to Wheal Jane. The laboratory has become well established in lithium analysis of ores and brines.

The problem with lithium is supply. Production is failing to keep pace with demand and there are real concerns for the future supply despite the large amount of exploration currently underway.

Even if sufficient deposits are identified, processing is not easy for an element where minerals such as lepidolite, petalite, zinnwaldite and spodumene are involved which are notoriously difficult to separate from their host matrices and then refine. Brines are easier to recover lithium from, but the fundamental problem remains the growth in demand which is out-pacing supply.

Another problem with the lithium-ion battery is that charging time has long been an issue. Cars can take an hour to fully charge and mobile phones can often lose their charge quite suddenly. Therefore, as well as a need for increased supply there is also a need for improved batteries which can extend range by speeding up charging capabilities. This has led to alternatives such as aluminium-graphite and vanadium redox batteries, both of which are potentially superior to lithium-ion in many regards.

The search for all of the metals mentioned above has seen a shift away from analytical requirements for traditional base and precious metals to a focus on “battery metals” some of which have been mentioned but include others that can be utilised in the battery industry that previously were not, interestingly tin is one of them.

All of this means that Wheal Jane Laboratory is already seeing vanadium becoming a regular request for analysis often added on to standard suites but also stand-alone graphite projects are becoming a more regular request. The laboratory remains in the forefront of all these analysis techniques at a very interesting time for the battery industry.

27th August 2019

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