Geothermal Lithium Extraction

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Geothermal lithium extraction involves extracting lithium from geothermal brines, which are hot, salty water solutions found in geothermal reservoirs. This approach offers a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional lithium mining methods, which can have significant environmental impacts.

Impact on climate action

Geothermal Lithium Extraction under Geothermal Energy advances climate action by providing a sustainable source of lithium, a critical component in batteries for renewable energy storage. By utilizing geothermal brines, this innovation reduces reliance on environmentally harmful extraction methods, supporting clean energy transition and mitigating climate change impacts.


  • Geothermal Brines: Geothermal brines contain various dissolved minerals, including lithium. The concentration of lithium in geothermal brines can vary depending on the geological characteristics of the reservoir.
  • Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE): DLE technologies use various methods, such as adsorption, ion exchange, or solvent extraction, to selectively remove lithium from geothermal brines.
  • Lithium Processing: The extracted lithium is further processed and refined to produce lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide, which are used in lithium-ion batteries and other applications.
  • Brine Reinjection: After lithium extraction, the remaining brine is typically reinjected into the geothermal reservoir to maintain reservoir pressure and minimize environmental impacts.

TRL : 5-6

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced DLE Technologies: Researchers and startups are developing new and improved DLE technologies with higher selectivity, efficiency, and lower costs. This includes exploring new adsorbent materials, ion exchange resins, and solvent extraction processes.
  • Selective Membranes: Researchers are developing selective membranes that can efficiently separate lithium from other ions in geothermal brines, improving the purity and yield of lithium extraction.
  • Process Optimization and Integration: Innovations in process optimization and integration are improving the overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness of geothermal lithium extraction systems.
  • Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation: Technologies and strategies are being developed to monitor and mitigate the potential environmental impacts of geothermal lithium extraction, such as brine disposal and land subsidence.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Lilac Solutions:
    • Technology Enhancement: Lilac Solutions focuses on developing innovative extraction technologies for lithium production from geothermal brines. Their proprietary ion exchange technology allows for efficient and environmentally friendly lithium extraction from brine sources. This process involves capturing lithium ions selectively from the brine solution, offering a more sustainable alternative to traditional lithium extraction methods.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Lilac Solutions stands out for its novel approach to lithium extraction, which minimizes water usage, energy consumption, and environmental impact compared to conventional methods such as evaporation ponds and hard rock mining. Their technology aims to streamline the lithium production process, making it more cost-effective and scalable for the growing demand for lithium-ion batteries.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Lilac Solutions serves lithium mining companies, geothermal energy producers, and battery manufacturers seeking to secure a sustainable and domestic supply of lithium. Their technology can be applied to lithium-rich geothermal brine sources worldwide, offering a reliable and environmentally responsible solution for lithium production.
  2. Standard Lithium:
    • Technology Enhancement: Standard Lithium specializes in developing lithium extraction and processing technologies from brine resources, including geothermal brines. Their proprietary selective extraction and crystallization technologies enable the efficient recovery of high-purity lithium carbonate from brine sources. This process aims to increase lithium recovery rates and reduce environmental impact compared to conventional methods.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Standard Lithium stands out for its expertise in lithium extraction from unconventional sources, such as geothermal brines, using advanced technology solutions. Their approach focuses on maximizing resource utilization, minimizing waste generation, and optimizing the economics of lithium production for the rapidly growing battery market.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Standard Lithium serves lithium mining companies, geothermal energy producers, and battery manufacturers seeking to diversify and secure their lithium supply chains. Their innovative extraction technologies offer a sustainable and scalable solution for lithium production, supporting the transition to clean energy and electrification.
  3. Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR):
    • Technology Enhancement: Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) is focused on developing sustainable lithium extraction and production facilities utilizing geothermal energy and direct lithium extraction (DLE) technologies. Their integrated approach involves harnessing geothermal energy to heat brine solutions containing lithium, followed by selective extraction and purification processes to recover high-purity lithium products.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: CTR stands out for its commitment to integrating renewable energy sources, such as geothermal energy, into the lithium production process. By leveraging geothermal brines and DLE technologies, they aim to establish environmentally friendly and economically viable lithium extraction operations, contributing to the transition to a low-carbon economy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: CTR serves stakeholders in the lithium supply chain, including battery manufacturers, electric vehicle producers, and renewable energy developers. Their sustainable lithium production model aligns with the increasing demand for responsibly sourced materials in the clean energy and transportation sectors.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL):
    • Research Focus: LBNL is at the forefront of research on Geothermal Lithium Extraction, focusing on developing novel techniques and technologies for extracting lithium from geothermal brines, a byproduct of geothermal energy production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of selective lithium extraction methods, including membrane-based separation, ion exchange, and adsorption processes, tailored to the chemical composition and temperature conditions of geothermal brines. They also investigate the integration of lithium recovery with geothermal power plants, aiming to maximize resource utilization and minimize environmental impacts.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in lithium-ion battery manufacturing, electric vehicle production, and renewable energy storage. By unlocking the potential of geothermal brines as a sustainable source of lithium, LBNL’s research contributes to reducing the reliance on conventional lithium mining, diversifying the lithium supply chain, and supporting the transition to electrified transportation and renewable energy integration.
  2. University of California, Riverside:
    • Research Focus: UC Riverside conducts innovative research on Geothermal Lithium Extraction, leveraging its expertise in geochemistry, materials science, and geothermal energy to develop efficient and environmentally sustainable methods for recovering lithium from geothermal brines.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the characterization of geothermal brines, including lithium concentration, purity, and chemical speciation, to identify suitable extraction techniques and optimize process parameters. They also explore the use of novel sorbent materials, solvent extraction systems, and membrane technologies for selective lithium recovery from complex brine compositions.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in lithium production facilities, mineral processing industries, and clean energy technologies. By harnessing geothermal resources for lithium extraction, UC Riverside’s research supports the development of domestic lithium supply chains, enhances energy security, and promotes sustainable resource management practices.
  3. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts pioneering research on Geothermal Lithium Extraction, leveraging its expertise in chemical engineering, materials synthesis, and resource economics to develop innovative approaches for maximizing lithium recovery from geothermal brines.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design and optimization of novel extraction processes, including direct lithium extraction (DLE) methods, precipitation techniques, and hybrid separation systems, tailored to the unique properties and geologic settings of geothermal reservoirs. They also evaluate the techno-economic feasibility, environmental sustainability, and scalability of lithium extraction technologies to assess their commercial viability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in renewable energy storage, grid stabilization, and electric vehicle manufacturing. By advancing Geothermal Lithium Extraction technologies, Stanford’s research contributes to expanding the global lithium supply, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerating the transition to a carbon-neutral energy economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Geothermal lithium extraction is still in the early stages of commercialization, but several pilot projects and demonstration plants have been developed, and commercial-scale projects are under development.