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American-Made Challenges

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Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize

Develop solutions that de-risk and increase market viability for direct lithium extraction from geothermal brines.

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stage:
Won
prize:
$4 Million Total Prize Pool

This challenge is closed

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Summary
Timeline
Updates18
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Summary

Overview

The American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize seeks to drive forward the development of economic DLE from geothermal brines found at the Salton Sea by partnering novel geothermal and non-geothermal expertise with experienced DLE industry experts to overcome challenges of geothermal lithium extraction by:

  • Developing electrochemical/electrolysis processes for the direct conversion of a lithium-bearing geothermal brine to a lithium hydroxide product without the intermediate creation of lithium carbonate.
  • Developing new absorbents, precipitants, catalysts, or new processing conditions that can efficiently and selectively extract lithium directly from geothermal brines.
  • Advancements that improve the yield and achievable product purity.
  • Advancements that reduce energy and water consumption rates.
  • Advancements that minimize and/or monetize waste products.

Lithium is a major component of high-charge-density batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale electricity storage. It is expected that global demand for lithium will increase by 500% by 2050 due to widespread adoption of electric vehicles and grid-scale battery storage, making lithium supplies a crucial element in the clean energy supply chain. 

The current U.S. lithium stock is almost entirely imported, with only 1% of U.S. lithium supply being sourced domestically. Furthermore, traditional sources of lithium are environmentally destructive. This combination of rapidly expanding global demand and lack of a safe, domestic supply has created an urgency to develop a safe, domestic, cost-competitive source of lithium to ensure American leadership in the transition to a carbon-free economy and a robust domestic supply chain.

Prize Structure

The Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize consists of three phases that will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to improve the profitability of DLE from geothermal brines. Each stage will include a contest period when participants work to rapidly advance their solutions.  

 

 


Guidelines

Please review the official rules for the complete application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to receive updates on the prize, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform. All questions can be sent directly to GeoLithiumExtraction@nrel.gov.

Timeline
Updates18

Challenge Updates

Now Announcing Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Winners!

Sept. 18, 2023, 2 p.m. PDT by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Congratulations to the three winners of the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize! In Phase 3, finalist teams fabricated and tested their designs and presented their prototypes to a panel of expert reviewers. Selected teams will take home $500,000–$1 million for their impactful solutions to extract lithium cost effectively from geothermal brines.

Join us in congratulating the Lithium Extraction Prize Winners!

  • SelectPureLi
    • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (PI), Urbana and Champaign, IL
    • Xerion Advanced Battery Corp., Kettering, OH
  • TELEPORT
    • University of Virginia (PI), Charlottesville, VA
    • PowerTech Water, Lexington, KY
  • Ellexco
    • George Washington University (PI), Washington, DC
    • University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

You can find more information about the prize and the winning teams on energy.gov.

Read the full announcement on energy.gov.

Congratulations, again!


Phase 3 Deadline – Extended!

June 14, 2023, 2:05 p.m. PDT by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The Phase 3: Fabricate & Test Submission Deadline has been extended to July 7, 2023.

The timeline has been updated on HeroX.

Please connect with questions at GeoLithiumExtraction@nrel.gov. Please submit your Phase 3 submission by 5pm ET, July 7, 2023.

Thank you!


Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Finalists Announced!

July 13, 2022, 11:50 a.m. PDT by NREL

Congratulations to the following five teams, each taking home $280,000 and earning the opportunity to compete in the final phase of the competition. All Phase 2 participants will receive reviewers’ comments within the next few weeks. For those teams selected to move on to Phase 3, please check your email for your next steps and stay tuned to register for the Phase 3 Rules Webinar.

Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Finalists 

  • George Washington University – Team Ellexco: “Chemical-Free Extraction of Lithium from Brines” 
  • Rice University – Team LiSED: “Lithium Selective ElectroDialysis”
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Team SelectPureLi: “A Redox Membrane for LiOH Extraction” 
  • University of Utah – Team University of Utah:  “Engineered Lithium Ion-Sieve Technology”
  • University of Virginia – Team TELEPORT:  “Targeted Extraction of Lithium with Electroactive Particles for Recovery Technology”


Phase 2 Deadline Approaching!

April 27, 2022, 2:05 p.m. PDT by NREL

Hello Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Semifinalists,

A reminder that your Phase 2 submission is due this Friday, April 29 by 5 p.m. ET. Please use the Phase 2 Submission Template and make sure your technical narrative addresses: 

  • How has your team advanced a solution to the identified problem?
  • What progress have you made?
  • How do you plan to fabricate and test your solution?

If you experience technical difficulty uploading your submission, please reach out to the prize administrators as soon as possible at . We will be closely monitoring the inbox all week to help with submission uploads. However, we do recommend submitting well before the 5 p.m. ET deadline on Friday.

Want a refresher on questions and comments from the IAP session? Check out the recordings from IAP Pitch Session #1 and IAP Pitch Session #2 on YouTube. 

 


Now Available: Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Phase 2 Rules

Nov. 24, 2021, 9:31 a.m. PST by NREL

Hello Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize Competitors!

Rules for Phase 2 of the Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize have been released. Please review the updated Official Prize Rules Document, which is available on the resources page and on the American Made Challenges website

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar to further discuss Phase 2 rules and upcoming prize events. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please reach out to us on the forum. 

Thank you!


Forum9
Teams277
Entries
Resources
FAQ