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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Identifying Lithium Sources and Geochemical Processes

Status Current
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 08/01/2011
End Date 05/01/2012
Funding Source Fran Ulmer Transformative Research Award
Funding Amount 5,000
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 09/21/2011 10:51PM
Keywords lithium

People

Faculty
  LeeAnn Munk

Student Researchers
  Hillary Jochens

Abstract

Lithium is recognized as an essential metal in the development of clean energy via lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are becoming extensively used as both energy storage devices as well as for vehicle propulsion. One geologic formation where lithium concentrates is in closed-basin brines, where it can then be economically viable to extract. An example of such a brine is in Clayton Valley, Nevada. This location is optimal for study because it is currently in production, it is not as large as some other deposits, and it is the only lithium-brine in the US. Because lithium brines occur in similar settings worldwide, it is appropriate to research its geochemical and petrological properties to assist in the development of a mineral exploration model.

Samples of suspected lithium source rocks, brine, groundwater, and meteoric water samples will be collected in Clayton Valley. In a laboratory setting, the rocks will be classified using petrological and geochemical techniques. Weathering experiments will be conducted on the source rocks to elucidate the mechanism by which lithium is released into the environment and evaporation experiments will give insights into brine evolution and lithium concentration. All samples from the weathering and evaporation experiments will be analyzed for total and dissolved metals as well as anions. The data generated from this project will be included in a geochemical model to help understand the basic processes lithium brines evolve which can then be used to help in exploration for additional deposits.

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