Elon Musk’s lithium plan

To extract from lithium bearing clays by mixing with salt and water, the lithium comes out in solution, whoo, that’s easy!

Can’t say I really believe it. That lithium does come out in brines is obvious as that’s a major source, extraction from brines. But I tend to think that that’s a result of geological timescale processes, not factory ones.

Of course, I know absolutely nothing about this it just doesn’t seem “right” to me.

11 thoughts on “Elon Musk’s lithium plan”

  1. To an extent it doesn’t matter if it works now or if it might in 10 years time. As long as it keeps the faithful faithful.

  2. Musk seems to think he can reinvent the entire manufacturing chain from mineral to road.
    It will end in tears. But not his.

  3. Clay is funny stuff, being a finely ground ceramic which does funky things when it comes to chemistry.
    Hell, ceramic clays (man-made or natural) have a long track record as catalysts. Starting with part of the “how we got to be here” autogenesis of “organic” molecules anywhere a deep sea bed meets active volcanism all the way to modern-day cutting edge chemical plants.
    And you’re talking clay.. suspended in anything the actual surface area of the particles is huge, almost HHGTTG order of “Huge”, so even low-probability interactions/reactions tend to happen…a lot if you do it right..

    Between “which clay”, “exactly which salt(s)”, “at which temperature and pressure”, “is eletcrolysys part of the process”, and a host of other questions it’s impossible to answer if this is actually true.

    But musk does have the money, opportunity, and selection of boffins, and let’s not forget: economic imperative…., to find a Goldilocks Spot if there’s any.
    Musk may be a pot-smoking braggart on occasions, but well… If you manage to actually literally land commercially viable rockets that outperform the best that NASA can offer on the drawing board…

    I’d give this a “definitely plausible” and wait to see what actually happens.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset


    It looks like a puff piece and makes me wonder if they’ve got a planning or licence application being considered or about to be submitted. All that talk about jobs and making Cornwall rich looks like trying to fend off environmentalists.

  5. Can he produce it cheaper than the ChiComs? As Mr Worstall has said many times, we get rare earths from the Chinese, not because we don’t have any, but because we can’t produce them as cheaply.

  6. “Clay is funny stuff, being a finely ground ceramic”… whut ? A bit chicken and egg that !
    In nature Clay is created by the decomposition over considerable time of minerals of a particular chemical composition, these being found (principally) in granitic or related rock types. Clay mineral deposits in Cornwall, for instance, are found at the margins of the large granite intrusions which underpin all the moorland in the South West and which also provided the source of the mineralisation that was exploited by tin and other hard rock mining in those parts.

  7. All Musk has to do is convince China that he _could_ break their monopoly in order to get cheaper Li. I’m sure, as PJF suggests, that there is more than a little angling for grants there, too. Musk isn’t a one-trick pony, but if he was then that trick would be amassing taxpayer dollars.

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