In June 2017, Professor Ernesto Julio Calvo won the DSM Bright Minds Challenge for Inquimae. Traditionally, lithium - the lifeblood of battery technology - is available through one source and one source only: extraction from giant salt lakes or ‘flats. It’s a very slow process that wastes millions of gallons of water while releasing sodium chloride and magnesium sulfate waste into the air and soil. Or at least, it was. Ernesto’s revolutionary electrochemical method uses solar power to extract the lithium…but with zero environmental impact.
The Challenge: Developing break-through technology around batteries and energy storage is recognized as one of the key elements that will drive the transition to 100% renewable energy.
Lithium is used in almost all the batteries around the world, however, its extraction has a very negative impact on the environment. Currently lithium mining is a resource intensive and dangerous process. According to the Guardian, even likes of Tesla can’t claim to be eco-friendly as long as the negative impact of lithium extraction is not reduced.
The Solution: Inquimae has created a new way of extracting lithium that is powered by solar energy and is quicker and cleaner than any existing technology. With lithium-ion batteries being used in a wide range of technologies from transport to mobile devices, the solution by Inquimae could have far reaching impacts on industries around the world.
The project team is under the direction of Prof. Ernesto J. Calvo at INQUIMAE and Buenos Aires University working in cooperation with Dr. Victoria Flexer at CIT-Jujuy and University of Jujuy with a research team funded by the Argentine National Science and Technology Research Council (CONICET). Prof. Calvo is a specialist in electrochemistry with more than 160 publications. He has a PhD in Chemistry (University of La Plata, Argentina 1979). He started research in lithium electrochemistry in 2012. http://www.inquimae.fcen.uba.ar/home.htm