Simbol Materials Is Turning The U.S. Into A Lithium Production Powerhouse

September 27, 2011

You may not see it in your home, but chances are that lithium plays a large part in your life--the stuff is found in laptop batteries, pharmaceuticals, and electric car batteries, and it is considered to be an "energy critical element" by the American Physical Society. There's just one problem: While the U.S. produced 75% of the world's lithium carbonate in the 1990s, today the country only produces 5%. The same goes for other often-used elements like manganese and zinc, which are almost entirely imported. A company called Simbol Materials hopes to change all that by tapping into the brine from geothermal plants near the Salton Sea, a California inland sea that is most famous for its surrounding ghost towns.

We first wrote about Simbol in 2009, when its plans for a commercial materials extraction plant were still years off (the plant will begin construction in 2012). This week, the company--which already has a pilot plant in operation--started up a high-purity plant that refines the base materials (i.e low-grade lithium) into specialty compounds. Currently, the low-grade materials are taken from outside sources, but Simbol plans to use its own feedstock materials once it has a commercial capture plant near the Salton Sea up and running. Read more>>>>