What is Lithium?
What is it used for?
Lithium is used in numerous applications in three basic forms: ore and concentrate, metal, and manufactured chemical compounds. Lithium's electrochemical reactivity and other unique properties have resulted in many commercial lithium products.
New Demand for Lithium
For many years, the majority of lithium compounds and minerals were used in the production of ceramics, glass and primary aluminum. Rapid growth in lithium battery use has resulted in batteries gaining significant market share, and rechargeable lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries appear to have the greatest potential for growth.
Lithium is ideal for use in battery applications as it has the highest electric output per unit weight of any battery material. Battery manufacturers are increasingly moving to lithium-based batteries from other battery materials and lithium carbonate, which Western Lithium intends to produce, has been the focus of recent research for use in batteries for electric vehicles.
Portable consumer goods are expected to provide some growth in demand for lithium batteries; however the start of mass production of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles using lithium batteries by major automotive manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Renault, BYD, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Ford, Chevrolet and GM presents the most significant upside potential for lithium demand.
Consumption of lithium compounds and chemicals, such as lithium carbonate, in lithium batteries increased by 22% per year from 2000 to 2008. Present battery applications include watches, cell phones, portable computers, wireless handheld devices, electronic games, calculators, video cameras and handheld power tools. Nearly all cellular phones and laptop computers now incorporate lithium batteries because of their higher energy density and lighter weight than alternatives.
Ore and concentrates are primarily consumed by the glass, ceramic, and porcelain enamel industries. Perhaps the most recognized application is Corning Ware, in which lithium allows the ceramic to be used from refrigerator to oven without shattering.
In metal form, lithium is the lightest solid element and is used in lithium aluminum and lithium magnesium alloys in aircrafts, where it imparts high-temperature strength, improves elasticity and increases the tensile strength. In purified form, lithium carbonate is used in the chemotherapeutic treatment of bipolar disorder.
Consumption of lithium by end-use, 2000-2008 (t Li)
Source: Roskill Information Services Ltd., THE ECONOMICS OF LITHIUM, Eleventh Edition, 2009