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Lithium from coal

By Paul Grad |

Coal could become a major source of lithium, according to a team led by professor Shenjun Qin, of Hebei University of Engineering (Handan, China; www.hebeu.edu.cn). From available data, the concentration of lithium in most coal varies between 10 and 50 µg/g. For example, the concentration of lithium in flyash samples is between 65 and 287 µg/g in South Africa and an average of 46 µg/g in China. Using two analytical techniques — inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS), and ICP atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) — the team has found Li dispersed, and even anomalously enriched in coal deposits. But in general, it says the analysis for Li has been largely neglected, with no specific discussion reported regarding Li concentrations in coal and coal ash. The team has also applied two techniques for lithium or aluminium extraction from coal ash. The first involves sintering the ash with sulfur, followed by acid leaching the metal (Li or Al) from the solution. With this extraction process, up to 60% of the metal has been recovered as Li2CO3, with a yield of 95.6%. An alternative technique, alkali sintering, avoids the need for the sulfur step, but has shown a lower yield (85.3% yield, with a metal recovery of 55%). “Although…
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