The demand for lithium is growing rapidly. The large-scale conversion of the internal combustion engine to electric means the automotive industry has set lofty targets that require a steep increase in lithium supply.
It is a cornerstone of battery technology, a key element needed to power the batteries in electric vehicles and it is facing a critical shortage. The world is in a race to secure access to lithium and a new Calgary company is ahead of the pack as the emerging leader in advanced chemistry and nanotechnology, set to revolutionize the energy industry.
Litus was formed in 2019 on research originally conducted at the University of Calgary by CEO and co-founder Dr. Ghada Nafie and her science-based team. It harvests lithium from aqueous sources and delivers unmatched results on low-concentration brines, making it both effective and economical, able to retrieve the element from North American sources previously deemed uneconomical.
Today, conventional lithium is extracted from lengthy operations in the south of Latin America by pumping water onto the ground and letting it evaporate by 50 per cent, a process that can take from 12 to 18 months to obtain a lithium product. It has to be shipped in concentrated form and then separated from magnesium, potassium and other elements. According to Nafie, the efficiency is poor and the purity is not good.
The major source is through hard rock mining around the world that is economically costly and environmentally unfriendly.
Litus has developed a new process using nanoparticles to extract lithium right from the source in a significantly more effective, economical and environmentally sound manner.
Nafie was brought up in the U.S. but moved to Egypt before coming to Calgary and, fascinated by science, technology and engineering, began a long relationship with the university here. She earned her B.Sc., M.Sc. and PhD in mechanical engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, where she is an instructor in engineering entrepreneurship.
After a break from the university to work in the oil and gas industry, she returned to work with a group to design, develop and market something that could be impactful in the world.
From its origins in a university lab, Litus was spun off as a company that has secured a solid industry niche with its exceptional success in extracting lithium.
Last month, it opened a state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind nanomaterial manufacturing pilot facility in southeast Calgary, able to produce up to five kilograms of its patent pending nanomaterial per day. From six cubes of water per day, Litus can supply one tonne of lithium per year.
“We are thrilled to start our nanomaterial production in large scale,” says Nafie,” This represents a major step forward in our mission to provide groundbreaking solutions in the world’s energy challenges. We are excited to contribute to Canada’s energy industry, and continue to underline our position as an international leader in this sector.”
In a time when supply chains are uncertain, Litus has made the strategic decision to source and manufacture all nanomaterials in-house, ensuring access to its patented nanotechnology material, which has the potential to unlock vast energy reserves.
Next step is to build a commercial plant in the field with a chosen oil and gas partner that will be capable of supplying 15,000 tonnes of lithium per year. Litus will be able to supply a much-needed resource for batteries, meeting a growing demand from its expanding customer base.
We have another first-in-Canada with the opening of Tous les Jours, the renowned French-Asian bakery cafe chain that offers more than 300 artisan pastries, gourmet cakes and desserts baked-in store daily. Located within the H Mart supermarket, at 11810 Sarcee Tr. N.W., its Canadian debut will serve as a springboard for continued growth throughout North America — 100 locations in the U.S. — and beyond. Tony Hunsoo Ahn, CEO of Tous les Jours International, says, “Calgary is an advanced and trend-conscious city, so we are confident locals and visitors will embrace and grow to love our unique French-Asian menu baked goods.”
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]