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LiFT - Lithium for Future Technology

Research overview:

The UK government aims to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. A crucial component of this plan is a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, and a switch to electric vehicles. These vehicles will require storage batteries that contain many components made of metals that have limited supplies. Whilst current rates of lithium production are sufficient to meet global demand, we need to investigate additional lithium resources if we are to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

Key objectives:

This proposal seeks to better understand the Earth system processes that concentrate lithium into mineral deposits, from which lithium can be mined in both an economically feasible and an environmentally responsible manner.


We will work alongside industry partners to identify the types of deposits that can be profitably extracted while simultaneously minimising any damage to the environment, and we will investigate the potential for more sustainable methods of lithium extraction using microbial processes.

We anticipate that our research will provide industry with new targets for exploration for lithium resources. This will not only help secure a low carbon economy for the UK, but also provide important economic benefits to the UK and other nations.

Lithium is a critical raw material and technology metal used in batteries for electric vehicles and for stationary power storage. We are very pleased to be part of this project, and will contribute by conducting geomicrobiological and life-cycle assessment research (LCA). The former will be carried out in order to understand the role of bacteria in lithium biogeochemical cycling in salars, and to evaluate the potential for microbial production of lithium products. The LCA work will help to quantify the environmental impacts of lithium extraction, including global warming potential and use of energy, water and land and its potential contamination.

Prof Karen Hudson-Edwards

Project Sponsors