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Scientists Are Seeking Lithium From Volcanoes For Renewable Energy

By Brian Spaen

Lithium is going to be very important in the future of renewable energy. Storing energy from sustainable sources like wind and solar will likely be required due to the unreliability of nature and our need to stockpile energy. With demand soon to be on the rise, Stanford scientists have been studying a new source where deposits of lithium can be easily found.

At the moment, most of our lithium is imported from Australia and Chile. Here in the United States, most of the natural lithium comes from brine pools in Nevada. It’s certainly not enough to satisfy upcoming demand, but lake deposits in supervolcanoes from the state, along with places like Oregon and Wyoming, may be just as rich in lithium as these leading countries. In fact, one area studied was the McDermitt volcanic field located between the Nevada-Oregon border.

These volcanoes aren’t the normal cone-shaped versions. Instead, supervolcanoes are massive holes in the ground that have filled up with water to create a lake. Since they shoot much more magma than a normal volcano when erupting, the cone-shaped roof collapses. As the lake forms, lithium is generated and turns into hectorite clay.