Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Science & Technology: New Technique to Detect Lithium in Volcanic Systems

Supervolcanoes could be the key to our battery-powered future (Wired)

Lithium needed for battery storage systems might one day be extracted from calderas surrounding dormant supervolcanoes

Schematic model for the formation of caldera-hosted Li clay deposits. 

Currently, most of the lithium used in these batteries comes from Australia and Chile. But the lithium supply needed to provide large-scale battery storage could come from an unexpected place, according to a new study. Super-volcanoes.

"We're going to have to use electric vehicles and large storage batteries to decrease our carbon footprint," lead author, professor Gail Mahood, said. "It's important to identify lithium resources in the US so that our supply does not rely on single companies or countries in a way that makes us subject to economic or political manipulation."

The Stanford team has come up with a new technique to detect lithium in volcanic lakes that have appeared in calderas – holes in the ground that were created when super-volcanoes erupted, displacing huge quantities of lava.

Lithium enrichment in intracontinental rhyolite magmas leads to Li deposits in caldera basins, Thomas R. Benson, Matthew A. Coble, James J. Rytuba & Gail A. Mahood. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 270 (2017)

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