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Tesla Patent Application = Process To Extract Lithium From Clay Minerals

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On July 8, Tesla submitted a patent application for processes to extract lithium from a clay mineral and its composite elements. Lithium has been at the forefront of many technological changes since the 1990s thanks to the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries — it is the reason for the revolution in electric vehicles (EVs) and personal technology devices.

Lithium is vital to the clean energy transition for the batteries that provide power and store energy. It is the gateway that allows renewable power to be released steadily and reliably. Demand for lithium has soared in recent years as automakers have moved much more toward EVs, notably since many countries including the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Canada have announced a phaseout of combustion-engine cars.

According to the World Bank, 5× more lithium than is mined currently is going to be necessary to meet global climate targets by 2050.

The new Tesla patent application includes providing a clay mineral comprising lithium, mixing a cation source with the clay mineral, performing a high-energy mill of the clay mineral, and performing a liquid leach to obtain a lithium-rich leach solution.

The Pervasive Need for Lithium

An EV can have 5,000 battery cells and could need 10 kg of lithium. One ton of lithium can help meet the demand of 90 electric cars. About 60,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent are required to produce one million electric cars. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has noted that 30 million electric cars need to be produced by 2027, and that would require 1.8 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent.

Consider the battery pack of a Tesla Model S. Thousands of cylindrical cells — a bit like nested dolls — with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions.

Typically, a main pack holds several modules, each of which is constructed from numerous smaller cells. Inside each cell, lithium atoms move through an electrolyte between a graphite anode and a cathode sheet composed of a metal oxide.

Obtaining lithium by conventional means takes its own environmental toll, due to carbon emissions and water and land degradation. The demand for lithium with a lower environmental footprint appears to be gaining ground.

The Tesla Patent Application Particulars

The patent, titled “Selective Extraction of Lithium from Clay Minerals,” argues that extracting lithium from ore using sodium chloride is an environmentally friendlier way to obtain the metal compared to currently used techniques such as acid leaching. According to Tesla, it also allows for higher recoveries.

Clay minerals consist of microscopic framework layers composed of Li, Na, K, Al, Si, Mg, Ca, Fe, O, and/or OH, and inter-layer spaces through which cations like Li, Na, K, and Mg may be conducted in water or other electrolytes. The position of the lithium atom in this mineral structure makes all the difference for how it can be extracted — if the lithium is found within the framework layer or floating in the interlayer.

Lithium, in small amounts, is widespread in clay minerals. It many be present in clays as impurities, as inclusions, in lattice cavities, absorbed on the surface, or by isomorphous substitution — the latter of which is the most common.

The introduction to the Tesla patent application offers a primer about lithium, explaining that it is a strategic metal for the lithium-ion battery (LIB) and the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The importance of economically extracting lithium from various lithium sources was identified as necessary to reduce the cost of batteries and electric cars.

The document states that, while the dominant lithium sources commonly used for mining are lithium brines — due to the low cost associated with Li extraction from these sources — the ever-increasing demand for LIBs makes it necessary to explore other lithium sources. The new Tesla patent application looks at another method for Li extraction: extracting the Li from clay minerals.

Here’s what the proposed Tesla process for extracting lithium from a clay mineral would comprise:

  • providing a clay mineral comprising lithium;
  • performing a high-energy mill of the clay mineral;
  • mixing a cation source with the clay mineral concurrently with, before or after performing the high-energy mill to form a mixture, wherein the cation source comprises a cation and an anion; and,
  • contacting the milled clay material and cation source mixture with a solvent to extract lithium from the milled clay material and form a lithium rich leach solution.

In this process, the lithium is obtained by acid leaching, where clay minerals are mixed with an aqueous solution of common mineral acids, such as H.sub.2SO.sub.4 or HCl, and then heated under atmospheric pressure to leach out the lithium contained in the clay minerals. Tesla claims that this acid leach method not only leaches out lithium, but it also leaches out high concentrations of impurities, including Na, K, Fe, Al, Ca, and Mg.

Lithium is generally extracted from minerals found in igneous rocks composed of large rocks (spodumene) or in water with high concentration of lithium carbonate. In the Tesla patent application, the clay material was described as comprising one or more additional minerals selected from the group consisting of spodumene, lepidolite, zinnwaldite, smectite, hectorite, muscovite, and combinations. The clay mineral comprises one or more additional elements selected from the group consisting of sodium, potassium, iron, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, silicon, chromium, and combinations.

The Tesla patent application notes that high lithium loss from the subsequent removal of the impurity elements, especially Al removal, may significantly lower overall lithium extraction efficiency.

Final Thoughts

Many different approaches are underway to increase the amount of lithium available for the technology industry.

Vulcan Energy Resources has announced that its main site has significant reserves, with lithium concentrations of 181 milligrams per litre. It is currently carrying out a full feasibility study, with the aim of scaling up to full commercial production of lithium in 2023-24. “We have a resource which is large enough to satisfy a very substantial amounts of the demand in the European markets here for many, many years to come,” Vulcan’s chief executive Francis Wedin told an industry conference last October.

Standard Lithium’s approach has been focused on using a modern technology-based approach to extract lithium not just faster but producing a higher-purity product and reducing the environmental footprint associated with that. Using the Steve Jobs approach of working backwards toward technology development, the project drives the process. That principal has been fundamental to their team in developing its proprietary LiSTR DLE process (LiSTR is an acronym for “lithium stirred tank reactor”).

The Tesla patent application comes at a time of hesitancy that battery-ready lithium might run out by 2025. And as electric cars begin to take over the roads, lithium resources are crucial for the transition to a zero emissions world.

Tesla patent application


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/18/tesla-patent-application-process-to-extract-lithium-from-clay-minerals/

Cleantech

 Elon Musk Offers Insight On Pros & Cons Of Electric Vehicle Battery Form Factors

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Most would agree: safety first. That said, are there battery form factors that are safer than others? While you can ask a variety of “experts” their opinion on the matter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is probably a good candidate to start with — after all, Tesla sold almost 80% of all electric cars sold in the US last year.

Elon Musk discussing the new 4680 battery form factor at last year’s “Tesla Battery Day” presentation. (Source: Tesla)

It turns out that Elon recently opened up a bit more regarding his views on EV batteries. Musk began by answering a question on Twitter about different EV battery form factors and the use of pouch cells. He said that heat propagation (technical term: TRP, which stands for thermal runaway propagation) seen in large pouch cells can be dangerously high.

“Probability of thermal runaway is dangerously high with large pouch cells. Tesla strongly recommends against their use,” Elon Musk tweeted.

Pouch cells have come under some scrutiny of late due to GM’s Chevy Bolt recall related to a series of battery fires, as reported by CleanTechnica. According to Steve Hanley, “The Bolt’s battery packs are made up of pouch cells, which are essentially layers of cathodes, anodes, and separators that are flooded with liquid electrolyte and encased in a flexible polymer pouch.”

In turn, is there a better approach to EV batteries? Twitter weighed in once Musk provided his initial input. Twitter handle Tesla Facts inquired, “So smaller, reinforced, pressure protected prismatic cells for iron based cells (LFP) are good & safe, and steel cylindrical for nickel (and iron) are the overall design sweet spot?” It appears Elon agrees.

Tesla battery cells.Tesla tab-less battery cells (Source: Tesla)

Musk further explained that cooling a cell with a larger form factor can be a challenge because the cooling loop to the center is a longer distance. This high cooling loop makes it harder to prevent hotspots (or heat spots). “Then, pressure & heat released from large cell in weak bag make it impossible to stop whole pack from burning,” Musk tweeted.

Tesla unveiled its 46mm diameter and 60mm length (4680) form factor battery cell at the company’s “Battery Day” in 2020. Since this is a larger form factor cell as well, I thought I should ask Elon if Tesla also had to deal with heat propagation issues with the 4680.

He did not reply to our official account directly, but he indirectly addressed the question. “Our new cell is 46mm diameter with steel shell & even that was huge challenge for propagation resistance,” Musk tweeted.

Taking a closer look at the Battery Day presentation, vehicle teardown expert Sandy Munro noted that Tesla had changed its battery cooling mechanism. Previously, the batteries were cooled down by placing the battery coolant tubes between the cell walls. The newer battery packs with 4680 cells will be cooled down by placing the coolant tubes above and below the cells, an effective technique to dissipate battery heat. Coupled with the tab-less design that reduces the cooling loop, Tesla appears to have discovered an optimal approach for battery thermal management.

An earlier version of this article was originally published by Tesla OracleRevised update edited by EVANNEX.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/21/elon-musk-offers-insight-on-pros-cons-of-electric-vehicle-battery-form-factors/

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Tesla Donated A Solar Roof Worth At Least $150,000 To Buffalo Heritage Carousel In 2020

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In August 2020, The Buffalo News reported that Tesla donated a solar roof to the Buffalo Heritage Carousel at Canalside, which was scheduled to open in the spring of 2021. The article noted that the black tiles were made at Tesla’s factory in South Buffalo and that each would be stamped “Assembled in Buffalo, NY, USA.” Today, Tesla shared a stunning video of the carousel on Twitter with the caption, “Solar Roof powers Buffalo Heritage Carousel in NY.”

When Tesla made the donation, Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, who is the president of Buffalo Heritage Carousel, said:

“With the support of Tesla, this rare and historic carousel will be powered by the sun and offer a new family recreational and educational attraction located along the boardwalk.

“We are so proud to be a local showcase for the solar roof tiles that are ‘made in Buffalo, New York.’”

The article noted that Tesla didn’t put a dollar value on the solar roof, which consists of two tiers. However, Corky Burger, the organization’s capital campaign director, said that estimates received before Tesla stepped forward came in at around $150,000.

The octagonal roundhouse was designed by eco_logic STUDIO houses a vintage park-style menagerie carousel that was manufactured in 1924 by Spillman Engineering Co.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/21/tesla-donated-a-solar-roof-worth-at-least-150k-to-buffalo-heritage-carousel-in-2020-see-it-now/

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World’s Longest-Operating Solar Thermal Facility is Retiring Most of its Capacity

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The Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) facility in California’s Mojave Desert retired five of its solar plants (SEGS 3 through 7) in July 2021 and plans to retire a sixth (SEGS 8) in September 2021, based on information submitted to EIA and published in our Preliminary Electric Generator Inventory. After SEGS 8 is retired, only one solar thermal unit at SEGS will remain operating (SEGS 9). SEGS, which began operating in 1984, is the world’s longest-operating solar thermal power facility.

Solar thermal power plants use mirrors to focus sunlight onto a receiver, which absorbs and converts the sunlight into thermal energy (heat). The heat is used to drive a turbine, which produces electricity. The SEGS units are parabolic trough concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems, meaning that parabolic (u-shaped) mirrors capture and concentrate sunlight to heat synthetic oil in a central tube, which then boils water to create steam. The steam drives the turbine, generating electricity.

The 356-megawatt (MW) SEGS facility was originally made up of nine solar thermal plants. SEGS 1 and 2 were retired in 2015 and replaced with two solar photovoltaic (PV) farms, Sunray 2 and Sunray 3. SEGS 3 through 7 (each with 36 MW of capacity) came online from 1986 to 1988. SEGS 8 and 9 (each with 88 MW of capacity) came online in 1989 and 1990, respectively.

Solar thermal plants account for a relatively small share of utility-scale U.S. solar electric generating capacity. As of June 2021, the United States had about 52,600 MW of utility-scale solar capacity. Of that total, 3.3% was solar thermal; the remaining 96.7% was utility-scale solar PV.

Although solar capacity in the United States is increasing rapidly, most of the capacity additions in recent years have been solar PV. About 42,000 MW of utility-scale PV capacity was added to the U.S. power grid between 2015 and June 2021; no additional solar thermal capacity has been added since the Crescent Dunes plant came online in 2015.

Based on data that developers and power plant owners have reported to EIA, one utility-scale solar thermal plant is planned to come online in the next five years in the United States: Arizona’s 200-MW La Paz Solar Tower. According to trade press and announced projects, several CSP projects are planned or are in development in other countries.

Principal contributor: Singfoong “Cindy” Cheah

Originally published on TODAY IN ENERGY.

Featured image source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Electric Generator Inventory. Note: SEGS 1 and SEGS 2 were replaced by photovoltaic systems Sunray 2 and Sunray 3, respectively, in 2017 after being decommissioned. They appear in EIA data as Sunray 2 and Sunray 3.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/20/worlds-longest-operating-solar-thermal-facility-is-retiring-most-of-its-capacity/

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5-Seat Tesla Model Y Approved For Australia

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The Tesla Model Y (five seater) has now been approved for sale in Australia, TechAU reports. The approval came from Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications Road Vehicle Regulator (ROVER) website.

ROVER is the system that administers road vehicles according to the nation’s Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018. From the approval documentation, TechAU found that three variants of the Model Y have been approved for sale — the Standard Range (255 kW power capacity, 69.2 kWh battery), Long Range (375 kW power capacity, 92 kWh), and Performance (393 kW power capacity, 92 kWh battery).

One key thing the article highlighted was a towbar option included in the documentation, leading to the expectation that Tesla will be offering a towing package with the Model Y. In particular, the document showed:

  • Maximum towing mass (braked trailer) — 1600kg
  • Maximum towing mass (non-braked trailer) — 750kg

Here’s the approval document:

There’s not any pricing information as of yet, but the article noted that it’s a pretty safe bet that there will be a $3,000 to $10,000 premium over the Model 3.

The Driven reported that there is no confirmed date for local sales and that Tesla representatives are reportedly indicating to some customers that it’s not on track to start deliveries in late 2021, early 2022, or even late 2022. This could be due to regulatory delays and/or strong demand elsewhere along with the widely reports automotive chip shortages. The Driven also noted, as did TechAU, that when the Tesla Model Y finally arrives in Australia, sales are expected to skyrocket. The Driven emphasized that Australian consumers favor SUVs and that these make up over half of total sales in Australia. So, as popular as the Model 3 is, the Model Y should be even more so.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/20/5-seat-tesla-model-y-approved-for-australia/

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