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IBC demonstrates highly selective high-yield direct lithium extraction from Salar de Maricunga brine

IBC Advanced Technologies, a developer of highly selective separations products, engineered systems and processes based on Molecular Recognition Technology, announced Phase One results of the Direct Lithium to Product (DLP) pilot plant currently operating at Salar de Maricunga, Chile. The Pilot Plant has undergone validation testing and begun Phase One operation, the results from which demonstrate highly selective, high-yield direct lithium extraction from brine and high water efficiency.

DLP Pilot Plant Phase 1 results:

  • 99+% of lithium selectively extracted directly from Salar de Maricunga brine; lithium is below analytical detection limits in Li-depleted brine.

  • Exceptionally high selectivity for lithium over other ions present in the brine (including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and boron), meeting specifications for subsequent direct production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, without the need to first produce lithium carbonate. No pre-removal or concentration steps are required.

  • Production of concentrated, pure lithium eluate solution (9g/L Li), meeting the Phase 1 design specification, with optimization to 10 g/L Li slated for upcoming phases, without extracting or evaporating water from the salar.

  • Demonstration of high water efficiency—lithium-depleted brine (with the small amount of water used to wash the MRT column) is suitable for reinjection into the salar, thereby conserving water, minimizing negative environmental impacts, and accelerating production.

  • Operation at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure with a minimal carbon footprint.

  • Concentrations of key elements in the Salar de Maricunga brine are: Li (0.767 g/L), Mg (5.37 g/L) and Ca (7.2 g/L). The Phase 1 average flowrate of brine through the MRT system is 7.2 m3 per day. Subsequent phases are now being implemented to achieve a full Pilot Plant capacity average flowrate of 50.4 m3 per day.

The Pilot Plant is being operated with the support of SIMCO Lithium, a JV between Grupo Errazuriz (55%) and Simbalik Group (45%), in cooperation with the Japanese company Chori.

DLP is a self-contained process that produces battery-grade lithium end-products at the same site as lithium extraction. The first step in the DLP process is highly selective direct lithium extraction from brine using a fully-automated Molecular Recognition Technology (MRT) system built by IBC.

Brine is flowed through the MRT system containing SuperLig 285 resin beads (manufactured by IBC) packed into a column. SuperLig 285 is highly selective for Li over other brine constituents including magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium and boron. No pre-extraction steps are required.


SuperLig MRT Lithium Pilot Plant module

As brine passes through the MRT column, Li is selectively extracted and rapidly loaded onto the SuperLig 285 resin at high capacity. Very rapid and efficient elution, or stripping, of the lithium from the loaded SuperLig 285 resin results in a concentrated, pure lithium eluate solution. A small amount of water is used to wash the SuperLig 285 column. The treated (Li-depleted) brine (with the small amount of water used to wash the MRT column) can be reinjected into the salar. Water used in the remainder of the DLP process is completely recycled.

Water conservation results from:

  • Need for only infrequent washing of the MRT columns.

  • No introduction of contaminants in the simple column washing procedure, thereby allowing the small volume of wash water to go with the Li-depleted brine back into the salar.

  • Production of a concentrated, pure lithium eluate solution, thereby minimizing downstream processing volume.

  • Complete recycling of process water.


Direct Lithium to Product (DLP) Pilot Plant

The DLP process avoids the conversion of lithium carbonate to lithium hydroxide, which requires an inefficient, complex, lengthy, costly, energy-intensive and environmentally damaging process wherein up to 20% of the lithium is lost. Depending on the market price, this large operational inefficiency cost can amount to tens of thousands of dollars per ton of lithium carbonate equivalent produced.

The DLP process uses no organic solvents or harsh chemicals. The primary consumable of the DLP process, electricity, can be provided by renewable sources on site. As all processing to final end-product is done on site, there is no need to transport process solution to an off-site processing facility.

The advanced performance of the DLP process results in rapid, environmentally-friendly, and highly water-efficient production of battery-grade lithium end-products:

  • Throughput time from direct lithium extraction from brine to final product is minimized due to few process steps and on-site processing.

  • In-process Li inventory (working capital) is small due to rapid throughput.

  • Water is conserved.

  • Equipment and energy requirements are substantially decreased.

  • Manufacturing footprint is optimized.

The installation and start-up of the DLP Pilot Plant, incorporating MRT, is the first step to environmentally sustainable, ESG positive production of lithium from Salar de Maricunga brine. The revolutionary DLP process promises to completely transform the processing of lithium and the structure of the lithium-producing industry. We are very pleased with the Phase 1 results. The DLP process has proven to be far superior to other processes based on solar evaporation ponds or direct lithium extraction (DLE) that are inefficient, consume large amounts of water and require extensive, costly, environmentally damaging and energy intensive processing to produce battery-grade end-products.

—José Joaquín Matte, Manager of New Businesses of the Errázuriz Group

Bloomberg recently reported that Chile’s government plans to require all new lithium projects to use direct extraction in a bid to reduce water losses.



We were never going to 'run out' of lithium.

But that does not exclude short tern shortages, and together with other relatively expensive and scarce elements used in lithium batteries is one of many reasons why the push for BEVs everywhere was far more problematic than enthusiasts allowed.

In the case of lithium though, this is potentially capable of answering much of the issues involved.

On reading this, the first question I asked myself was 'how much of the world's resources of lithium are in such brines?'

Here is an article which gives the world's lithium resources at 89 million tons, most of it in brines:

It also talks specifically about the Salar de Uyuni lithium resource in Bolivia, which is the largest, at 21 million tons, so far substantially unexploited due to a variety of issues, including environmental concerns, the normal process, issues in the climate there about using evaporative solar techniques, and the large amount of magnesium in the brine.

This process is not dependent on evaporation and is highly selective for lithium, so may enable tapping into that resource for a start, as it seems in addition to be very environmentally friendly,

The process would also appear able to decrease the price of the lithium in the battery,

One of the reasons that folk got over optimistic about future price falks is that top down 'analysis ' just extrapolated previous rates of decline into the future, when an increasing proportion as the technology and production advances is simply the far more sticky material costs, hence the recent rises, not falls, in battery prices.

You need fundamentally new technology to break that link and force prices lower still, and you can't just read that off from historic rates of decline.

I am having a look to try to find out how much of the current price of batteries is in the lithium, but it may take a while as you have to be careful, as the high grade lithium required is way more expensive than the less processed stuff straight out of the ground.

This would appear to have good potential to some extent at least to actually drive down the cost of lithium batteries at a fundamental level though.

And I very much welcome that, although some here may imagine me to be anti battery or whatever.


There are all sorts of hassles in getting a fix on the simple question:

' How much does the lithium in a lithium battery cost as a percentage of total costs?'

Among then is that, for instance, you often come across prices for lithium carbonate, which with lithium hydroxide is one way of using it, but only contains 20% lithium by weight.

Prices are also quoted at a variety of different levels of refining for use in batteries.

These bits are hopeful though:

' direct production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate, without the need to first produce lithium carbonate.'


' The DLP process avoids the conversion of lithium carbonate to lithium hydroxide, which requires an inefficient, complex, lengthy, costly, energy-intensive and environmentally damaging process wherein up to 20% of the lithium is lost.'

So I can't currently answer the question of how much this potentially reduces the cost of lithium batteries, but it seems likely, if it all works out, to substantially ease concerns about supply.


Working to the nearest planet for accuracy, I have fudged up some figures - false precision is extremely misleading. so I will keep it very, very rough.

Price of battery grade lithium carbonate which contrains 20% by weight lithium:

At $37,000 per metric ton, that is $37 per kg, times 5 for a kg of lithium, comes to $185/kg lithium

Typical of the confusion is this article on battery weight:

' Besides lithium, EV batteries also contain many other minerals, such as cobalt and manganese. A typical EV battery has about 8 kilograms of lithium, 14 kilograms of cobalt, and 20 kilograms of manganese, although this can often be much more depending on the battery size – a Tesla Model S’ battery, for example, contains around 62.6 kg (138 pounds) of lithium.'

!! That is going to be the weight of lithium carbonate, not lithium, in the Tesla S
Divide by 5 and you come to 12.5kg of lithium, which makes sense, which the figures in the article don't.

Taking an EV battery as using around 10 kg of lithium, then you come out to a cost of $185 * 10 = $1850 for an averagish EV

Guessing it as 70 KWh, we have something like $25 per KWh of the battery cost being for lithium

This is going to help reduce costs, but can't by itself reduce them enough to make them hit the $50KWh really needed for full competitiveness with ICE at the cheaper end of the market.

It sure can help supply though, and environmental impact, as well as cost, so is very welcome indeed.


This is from Aug 2022

CEO Elon Musk says there are roughly 5 kilograms of lithium in one of his battery packs. Using an LFP based chemistry instead of ones with pricier metals can cut the cost of batteries by about 10% to 15%, according to Citigroup analyst Jeff Chung.


the California Energy Commission estimates that there’s enough lithium here to meet all of the United States’ projected future demand and 40% of the world’s demand

The article doesn’t give enough specifics to check the claim but it could impact price and scalability.


California’s Salton Sea—which offers the greatest domestic potential for lithium extraction from brines—could produce 600,000 tons annually, according to initial estimates. 


Lithium mines produced an estimated global total of 130,000 metric tons in 2022, a peak in production. This is a significant increase from 2010, when global lithium production was just 28,100 metric tons


Hi Gasbag:

Your figures and mine accord 'near enough for Government work' and I tracked back a bit on what does seem to be Musk's claim of 5kg of lithium for 'one of his battery packs' although I can't spot where he specifies which one he is talking about.

If it is in one of his cars, that seems low, and if it is in one of his home battery packs, it seems high, and all the other stuff I have tracked down seems to reckon around 8-10kg for a typical EV battery, which of course is usually smaller than the average Tesla car battery which typically go for more range than other less premium BEVs.

But the difference is not large enough to materially affect the conclusions of the approximate likely cost impact of the, very welcome, improvements suggested by this new process.


I can't understand this fixation on Lithium; first it was lead now it's Lithium. I consider Li as a bridging technology and not worth all the time and effort spent on it. There are other materials far more abundant, safer, cheaper and better suited for storage of electrical energy than Li. Why not concentrate on e.g. Aluminum, Magnesium, Graphene, Sulfur etc. etc.. Perhaps it would be better to involve AI for choosing tech. solutions to optimize relevant results instead of leaving it up to greedy and short-sighted corporations and investors.


These are the latest Global Lithium Carbonate usages (EV Lithium Deployment in Q3 2022) from Adamas Intelligence.

Please review these comments in this recent GCC post to get some potential to Direct Lithium to Product (DLP) or Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE):


Thanks for the link, Gryf, which I admit I had not looked at in much detail before, as I thought it was mainly concerned with reprocessing, which I was already pretty confident can be done efficiently at good cost.


Other battery chemistries certainly have lots of potential, and give grounds for hope.
But it is extraordinarily difficult to predict when, or even whether, they will happen.

So I tend to concentrate on the little bits I have some more professional insight.

Once a fundamental process is established, it is possible to make surprisingly accurate predictions of its cost progress, with increased volume and expertise.

So for instance aluminum production, from being a rare and exotic material, became fundamental to much of modern life, and the cost per kg could almost be read off by date, once the basics were in place.

The tough part is to realise when fundamentally new stuff is needed, and the paradigm breaks down.

So in the most well known example, Moore's law accurately predicted the fall in cost of computing power for a very long time, and now there is ongoing debate as to whether it still holds true:

' “Moore’s law is dead!” This is a line of thought championed by many prominent individuals in the fields of electrical and power engineering. But it’s quite a controversial one; just as many people believe Moore’s Law is still true today in 2022 as those who believe that it’s dead and no longer valid.'

The situation with battery costs is analogous, and the question is whether, or to what extent, historic falls in cost can be maintained.

But at the simplest level, when you are on the early part of the production curve and no very fundamental breakthroughs are needed, it is possible to get a remarkably accurate reading some years into the future on costs.

That for instance is why I am very confident that the price of electrolysis and electrolysers is going to continue its steep fall.

That early in the production curve, it ain't difficult to work out, even for me!


You have to be careful comparing Moore's law and other geometric expansions, especially in power electronics.
Moore's law refers to the number of transistors per unit area.
Transistors process information and a smaller transistor can process the same amount of information as a larger one.
However, batteries and solar cells, etc process power and this is proportional to the size of the object.
Thus, while you get more efficient at making the devices, you do not get any benefits from making them smaller.
However, as Dave says, you can probably expect the price of electrolysers to fall as production scales, just not 2x every year.


Hi Jim.

The bottom line is that falling costs go on a curve, and tail off, not a straight line.

Of course, the tricky bit is to know when and how sharply different things tail off and slow down, but tail off they will.

As the Chinese saying is, trees do not grow up to heaven.

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