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How much lithium is on earth, how long will it last and what is most likely to replace it?

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Lithium is a relatively abundant element on Earth, but its availability in economically extractable concentrations varies. The majority of lithium resources are found in brine deposits in salt flats, particularly in South America, as well as in hard rock deposits in countries such as Australia, Canada, and China.

Estimates of total lithium reserves on Earth vary, but they are generally believed to be around 17-20 million metric tons. However, it's important to note that lithium is not consumed like fossil fuels, but rather it is extracted and used in various applications, including batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage, ceramics, glass, and pharmaceuticals.

As demand for lithium continues to grow due to its increasing use in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, concerns have been raised about the long-term availability of lithium. The rate of lithium production would need to increase significantly to meet the projected demand in the coming decades. However, it's worth noting that lithium is a recyclable material and efforts to recycle lithium from used batteries are increasing, which could help to extend its availability.

As for potential alternatives to lithium, researchers and companies are actively exploring and developing alternative battery technologies that do not rely on lithium, such as solid-state batteries, sodium-ion batteries, and magnesium-ion batteries. These technologies have the potential to offer comparable or even better performance than lithium-ion batteries, while potentially using more abundant and less expensive materials. However, these alternative technologies are still in the early stages of development and are not yet widely commercialized. Additionally, research into lithium extraction from unconventional sources, such as seawater or geothermal brines, is also ongoing.

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