Lithium Refining Using Crystallization

The global demand for lithium is skyrocketing, driven by increasing electric vehicle (EV) sales powered by lithium-ion batteries. However, pure lithium is not found in nature; it must be extracted and refined from liquid brines commonly found in salars, or salt flats, or from lithium-bearing minerals found in hard rock mines.

The lithium refining process isolates the lithium while removing contaminants and other chemicals to produce a pure, usable form of lithium. As lithium demand rises, so does the need for efficient, cost-effective lithium extraction and refining processes. Crystallization processes that are designed to form high purity lithium crystals by controlling how the crystal is formed and grown have been proven to produce valuable battery-grade lithium products and are core technology to the lithium refining industry.

Benefits of Lithium Crystallization Technology from Swenson

Swenson leverages decades of supplying lithium crystallization process equipment expertise and world-class test labs to design a lithium refining system that meets the unique demands of your lithium source and battery production purity demands. As a result, Swenson lithium refining crystallizers enable our clients to:

  • Maximize recovery of high purity, battery-grade lithium products
  • Effectively and efficiently remove contaminants
  • Reduce costs and increase revenue by improving process efficiency

Lithium Refining Crystallization Systems

Crystallization of valuable, high purity products requires years of know-how and experience to properly engineer the process to control the formation of the crystals in a manner that effectively separates the impurities. Each lithium source stream, either produced from lithium brines or spodumene, has its own impurity profile that requires unique design approaches. It is important to work with an experienced crystallizer technology partner that provides the breadth of experience necessary to successfully address all challenges. As well, crystallizers can be used to effectively remove contaminants from lithium sources to improve the lithium recovery.

Swenson is an acknowledged leader in the field of crystallization. Our technologies include forced-circulation and draft tube baffle (DTB) crystallizers.  The requirements of a particular project and process dictate the crystallizer type and design best suited for the application.

For example, in many lithium hydroxide monohydrate applications forced-circulation crystallizers can be utilized, as they are designed to keep crystals suspended in solution and prevent scaling of the equipment.  Draft tube baffle crystallizers are used for lithium carbonate crystallizers as they provide controlled crystallization to form larger and highly pure crystals. Crystallizers can require a source of heat for operation.  This heat can be supplied from a variety of sources.  Mechanical vapor recompression (MVR) uses electricity to drive a compressor that recycles the heat for increased energy efficiency.  Multiple effect designs are cost effective when inexpensive steam is available.  In some cases, the crystallizer may utilize the energy already in the source stream as in a flash crystallizer.  Reaction crystallizers may require the control of temperature to maintain optimum crystallization conditions.