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Research project

Lithium for Future Technology - LiFT

Project overview

Lithium (Li) demand is expected to increase significantly over the next decade, due to its use in batteries for electric vehicles and stationary power storage. Global supplies of Li are currently dominated by salt-lake brines (salars) and Li-pegmatites, whilst additional geological resources include Li-clays, Li-rich borates, and Li-micas in granites. Significant knowledge gaps remain regarding Li mobilisation, transport and concentration in the crust. Large-scale processes such as tectonics and climate are crucial influences on Li mineral systems, but further research is needed to understand their role in Li mineralisation. This project will investigate Li mineral systems using a source–transport-trap-preservation framework. It will develop a new quantitative understanding of the processes that link magmatic and sedimentary deposits, and brines, to aid in the search for new, sustainable Li resources, together with innovative assessment of environmental impacts. To achieve this, we have created a consortium of the UK’s leading researchers studying Li mineralisation, with an international group of industry and academic project partners that encompasses all aspects of the Li industry.
Southampton's role:
We have identified 3 key volcano-sedimentary basins, with contrasting Li and B deportment, that represent potentially significant Li resources and are ideal to investigate Li enrichment processes: the Li-borate Jadar deposit, Serbia; the McDermitt caldera Li deposits, Nevada; and the Bigadiç borate deposit, Western Anatolia (WA), Turkey. Key questions to answer include: 1) Do minerals in the basin sediments account for the total Li budget of these systems? 2) Is Li in these basins derived from magmatic rocks by low-temperature surface processes or by high-temperature geothermal processes? And what are the implications of this for Li exploration in sedimentary basins? 3) If high levels of Li and B co-exist in the borate forming brine, what are the conditions and mechanism by which Li and B decouple and what will be the ultimate fate of the Li? We will use geochemical and isotopic tracers on samples, together with experimental studies, to answer these questions.


Lead researcher

Professor Martin Palmer

Professor of Geochemistry
Other researchers

Professor Rachael James

Professor of Geochemistry

Research interests

  • Enhanced rock weathering and other techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • Novel isotopic signatures of biogeochemical cycling, including iron, chromium, lithium and magnesium, and the response of biogeochemcal cycles to global environmental change
  • Exploration for new sources of metals and elements critical for emerging green technologies, including lithium and the rare earth elements

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups