Lithium extraction in South America: Salt water is allowed to evaporate inside a large pool until only a brine remains. Lithium carbonate is then extracted from it.
Photo: Getty Images
Lithium – in greater demand than ever
The key raw material lithium is found not only in lithium-ion batteries; it is also a component of CERAN® cooktop panels and other products made of glass-ceramic that owe to it their special characteristics. The fast growing demand for lithium is causing the commodity price to climb.
Dr. Uta Neubauer
Lithium occupies a special position in the world of chemical elements. It is in third place in the periodic table, behind the gases helium and hydrogen, which makes it the first solid element. At the same time, it is the lightest metal. Lithium is currently also an exception on the commodities market. While many metals are under pressure, the prices for lithium are exploding. The reason is that battery manufacturers are buying out the market to produce lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, smartphones and other mobile devices. Lithium also plays a key role in many other products – from aluminum alloys to lubricants and antidepressants and products from the glass and ceramics industry.
SCHOTT uses lithium in the production of glass-ceramics, for example, for CERAN® cooktop panels, ROBAX® fire viewing windows for fireplaces, ZERODUR® glass-ceramic and for various security and fire protection glasses. ”Our glass-ceramics are based on a lithium aluminum silicate system,” explains Dr. Martin Heming, Director of Research and Development at SCHOTT. ”The glass-ceramic is initially manufactured and melted like glass and produced in the appropriate form,” he adds. Then, unlike glass production, a post-treatment takes place at 800 to 900 degrees Celsius, in which the characteristic nanocrystals are formed.
A complex process takes place during the glass melt. Photo: SCHOTT/ C. Costard
Chefs and fireplace owners are not the only ones to benefit from glass-ceramics that contain lithium. The fire-resistant glass PYRAN® Platinum is also made of it so that it can withstand high temperatures and sudden cooling from extinguishing water undamaged in the event of fire. Glass-ceramics are also used in telescopes and other measurement instruments, as well as in semiconductor manufacturing, because glass-ceramics provide extremely high accuracy due to their zero expansion.