Enhancing Lithium’s Use in Industry 4.0 With Analytical Methods

‘Industry 4.0’ is the much touted ‘next Industrial Revolution.’ Through the widespread adaptation of automation and feedback technologies, there will not only be cost savings but also overall efficiency savings in terms of energy consumption and carbon footprint.1

How is Lithium Fueling Industry and Manufacturing Innovation?

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One of the central concepts of Industry 4.0 is finding ways to tackle the many sustainability and environmental challenges the world is facing. Covering a range of Industry 4.0 aspects, from the shortage of raw materials for manufacturing current-generation battery technologies to finding ways to minimize energy consumption, Pittcon is a great opportunity to find out more about the potential of Industry 4.0 technologies.

Pittcon is a long-established multidisciplinary event that brings together elements of trade shows with talks from a variety of experts in industry and research. One of the main tracks at this year’s Pittcon will be Industry 4.0 technologies and the possibilities that they offer. Experts in the field will provide overviews of the landscape of automation technologies, with a particular focus on the development of lithium-ion batteries in an industrial and manufacturing landscape enhanced by automation possibilities.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Electric vehicles hold great promise for public and private transport that does not rely on the consumption of fossil fuels. However, one of the main barriers to the more widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the limitations associated with the driving range due to limited battery capabilities as well as the lack of the necessary infrastructure to support electric vehicles.3 Currently, the most widely used battery technologies are lithium-ion batteries that, combined with growing improvements in infrastructure like enhanced accessibility to charging points, are proving to be a widely successful technology.

Lithium-ion batteries use the reversible reduction of lithium to create a cell that can be charged and discharged. The lithium ions move to intercalate through the cathode and anode, which have a separator between them. A non-aqueous electrolyte is used to facilitate ion transport in the battery.

Generally, lithium-ion batteries have a good powder density, are reasonably light and have a short charging time. Many lithium-ion batteries will have lifetimes significantly longer than more traditional lead-acid batteries, and many applications have seen lead-acid batteries being replaced with new lithium-ion technologies as they are considered to be reasonably low maintenance.

It is clear that if intermittent power sources such as renewable wind, hydro and solar power are to completely supersede fossil fuels as energy sources, further improvements in battery technologies and cost-efficiency will need to be made. However, the lithium mining industry is already facing challenges associated with the growing demand for lithium.

Batteries and energy storage technologies already account for over 30% of the worldwide lithium demand. Despite increasing global lithium production, the relatively localized global supply of the material has meant increasing prices and concerns about the global availability of lithium.4 One hope is that improvements in recycling capabilities will help balance the issues of global supply and demand and that recycling processes will become more cost-effective.5

Analytical Methods

Analytical methods are key to using lithium in Industry 4.0 manufacturing methods and enabling lithium mining, extraction, and recycling. Energy storage systems often are very demanding in terms of the purity of the materials used, and testing and improving the efficiency of extraction methods for their reliability means being able to accurately monitor the concentrations of the lithium species in solution.

Pittcon will be hosting several sessions devoted to all aspects of applying analytical methodologies to improve the use of lithium in industry and manufacturing.

Dr. Peter Larkin from Solvay will introduce how analytical spectroscopies, such as atomic spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopy, imaging, and XPS, can be used to develop, manufacture and recycle lithium batteries. Other speakers include Dr. Chady Stephan from Perkin Elmer, Dr. Robert Kostecki from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dr. Zulipiya Shadike from Brookhaven National Laboratories.

Together, these experts will cover how these different spectroscopic and analytical methods can be used for quality control to enable the new lithium economy and types of spectroscopy that can be used to assess battery interfaces and performance.

In particular, Dr. Harris Kohl at Westminster College will discuss how a new water-permeable membrane that has been used for the collection of hydrocarbons from solution can be adapted for lithium extraction. Dr. Kohl will also cover how UV-vis spectroscopy can be used to assess the quality of the lithium extraction process for this promising new method.

In the United States, which already has relatively limited natural lithium stocks, lithium recycling has become a crucial factor in the future of lithium to ensure the sustainability of lithium technology. Given that energy storage technologies underpin the feasibility of a move to fully renewable energy generation, efficient and effective ways to provide more lithium to fuel the lithium economy are essential.

Pittcon offers a unique place for collaboration between scientists, technical experts, and industry leaders and is host to some of the latest research and instrumentation developments. To find out more about Pittcon, as well as how to register, click here. Information on the conference schedule and details of all speakers can be found within the Technical Program.

References and Further Reading

Tseng, M. L., Tran, T. P. T., Ha, H. M., Bui, T. D., & Lim, M. K. (2021). Sustainable industrial and operation engineering trends and challenges Toward Industry 4.0: a data-driven analysis. Journal of Industrial and Production Engineering, 38(8), 581–598. https://doi.org/10.1080/21681015.2021.1950227

Ferrero, E., Alessandrini, S., & Balanzino, A. (2016). Impact of the electric vehicles on the air pollution from a highway. Applied Energy, 169(x), 450–459. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.01.098

Sanguesa, J. A., Torres-Sanz, V., Garrido, P., Martinez, F. J., & Marquez-Barja, J. M. (2021). A review on electric vehicles: Technologies and challenges. Smart Cities, 4(1), 372–404. https://doi.org/10.3390/smartcities4010022

Martin, G., Rentsch, L., Höck, M., & Bertau, M. (2017). Lithium market research – global supply, future demand and price development. (2016) Energy Storage Materials, 6, 171–179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ensm.2016.11.004

Guo, X., Zhang, J., & Tian, Q. (2021). Modeling the potential impact of future lithium recycling on lithium demand in China: A dynamic SFA approach. (2019) Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 137,110461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.110461

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Pittcon.

For more information on this source, please visit Pittcon.

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