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Lithium

December 19, 2017

Lithium, the lightest of all metals, is used in air treatment, batteries, ceramics, glass, metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, and polymers. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are particularly important in efforts to reduce global warming because they make it possible to power cars and trucks from renewable sources of energy (for example, hydroelectric, solar, or wind) instead of by burning fossil fuels. Today, lithium is extracted from brines that are pumped from beneath arid sedimentary basins and extracted from granitic pegmatite ores. The leading producer of lithium from brine is Chile, and the leading producer of lithium from pegmatites is Australia. Other potential sources of lithium include clays, geothermal brines, oilfield brines, and zeolites. Worldwide resources of lithium are estimated to be more than 39 million metric tons, which is enough to meet projected demand to the year 2100. The United States is not a major producer at present but has significant lithium resources.