The Yorkshire Society’s mission is to promote and celebrate all things Yorkshire, so we felt our membership needed to hear about one of our corporate members who run a ground-breaking business in West Yorkshire. Based in Wakefield, Aqualithium is a partnership embracing the worlds of science and commerce.
Business professionals, scientists and investors have come together, united by a common objective: to resolve the imminent shortage of lithium in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.
Lithium demand is set to rise exponentially, as the world embraces battery powered vehicles in its transition away from petrol powered vehicles. But with supplies of lithium being finite and extraction mainly being from land-based sources (in the US, China and Australia), the environmental impact of getting hold of this important reserve is an issue. More recently concerns have been expressed in the US where lithium mining has led to the poisoning of some of the limited water sources in and around the Nevada Desert.
But, whilst it is estimated that land-based resources total 14 million tonnes, it is also estimated that the world’s seas hold a massive 230 billion tonnes of lithium.
The Aqualithium team are at the forefront of the research and development into a commercially viable method of harvesting lithium from seawater, brines and geothermal wastewater.
One of Aqualithium’s key innovations has been developed in partnership with the University of Bath – a membrane which allows the nano filtration of tiny particles of lithium from sea water.
One of their recent successes has been the development, design and patent of the Aqualithium Harvester – a huge floating platform with solar panels used to power on board pumps. Water is pumped from 10m below the surface, to avoid any surface debris, up through the membrane of the lithium filter collection system, with filtered water returned back to the ocean in a clean and environmentally friendly process.
The Harvester would work around the clock until its filters are full. They are then removed and new ones installed and the process starts again. The Aqualithium Harvester is a game changer in the field of lithium extraction. It allows the efficient collection of lithium from an endless supply in a sustainable, ecologically and environmentally sound way that produces no seaborne waste product and uses no fossil fuel power. It is the only truly green way of obtaining lithium.
David Oddie, Chief Executive Officer, explained to The Yorkshire Society how at present “all the shareholders and directors of Aqualithium are Yorkshire folk and it is their intention, once production starts, to manufacture in Yorkshire”.
He added, “The science exists to solve the problem of lithium extraction, the challenge now is to refine the process and technology to make this commercially viable”
Whilst many businesses have been affected by Covid, Aqualithium have found that whilst progress has been slowed slightly that it has given them extra time to step back, think about issues, take stock, improve and find new solutions.
Aqualithium are based at Nostell Priory, where John Harrison the famous Yorkshireman who invented the marine chronometer’s father worked. John Harrison created a device which solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea which solved a longstanding problem, saving thousands of lives and increasing safety at sea hugely. David Oddie explained that he can “see many parallels today with Harrison and Aqualithium, both coming up with ground-breaking inventions to solve long term issues”.
When asked about what makes Yorkshire unique, David expanded on the Harrison analogy by citing many Yorkshire Folk coming up with solutions to problems from Percy Shaw and Cats Eyes to Harry Brearley and Stainless Steel. He puts this down to a Yorkshire “can do” attitude and sees the region as an innovator. As he summed up – “underestimate Yorkshire at your peril!”.
For more information, viist the Aqualithium website.