Direct lithium extraction: A new paradigm for lithium production and resource utilization

The growing demand for lithium batteries in various applications has increased lithium production from multiple sources, including ores, brines, and spent batteries. Traditional extraction methods such as mining and evaporation ponds have significant environmental risks, such as air pollution and loss of habitats for aquatic and terrestrial animals. Furthermore, they cannot meet the ever-increasing demand for lithium in the global market. Consequently, industries have been exploring rapid and sustainable lithium recovery methods from these sources. Similar to what shale did for oil industry, Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) represents a promising approach poised to enhance lithium production efficiency. This method not only reduces operation time but also brings added sustainability benefits. Various DLE methods have been proposed, such as adsorption, ion exchange, membranes, direct carbonation, and electrochemical processes. This paper comprehensively analyzes DLE technologies, including their fundamentals, principles, and applications. The focus is on various techniques used in DLE, highlighting their respective strengths and limitations. The study explores the potential of DLE for efficient and sustainable lithium recovery, considering the growing demand for lithium in the energy sector. Furthermore, the analysis examines the challenges associated with DLE, including cost, environmental impact, and scalability. This paper contributes to a greater understanding of the opportunities and limitations of DLE to inspire future crucial research efforts in this strategically important emerging technology.