By Dave Brown —Exclusive to Lithium Investing News
It has been a challenging year in many ways for lithium investors with inflationary costs, supply chain disruptions, foreign exchange volatility and broad equity market instability impacting the lithium industry from exploration companies to some of the biggest producers.
In March, Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) recognized the PolyPlus Battery Company for its successful research in lithium metal battery chemistry involving the use of a patented multi-layer solid electrolyte that chemically isolates the lithium electrode from the catholyte. This effectively permits the construction of lithium batteries with unprecedented energy density.
Last month the company was acknowledged in Time Magazine’s 50 best inventions for 2011 for its applications with water or ambient air, depending on its configuration, to deliver a higher energy performance. Although the water chemistry might be best suited for a marine market with underwater robots or unmanned underwater vehicles, the development of a lithium-air rechargeable battery could prove to be exceptionally valuable for portable electronics and most notably electric vehicles.
Highest specific energy density ever recorded
In an exclusive interview with Lithium Investing News, PolyPlus’ CEO, Dr. Steven Visco, explained that although much of the breakthrough research must obviously remain proprietary, “in general terms I can tell you that over the past year PolyPlus has greatly advanced the state of the art for rechargeable lithium-air technology. We have shown the fundamental reversibility [cycling] of the technology and have made dramatic improvements to the power density. We are also preparing for pilot production of the core technology of the lithium-air battery, the protected lithium electrode (PLE). PolyPlus will start limited production of the PLE and lithium-air and lithium-water batteries built with them. We have also demonstrated the highest specific energy density ever recorded for any battery chemistry. PolyPlus has built and tested 10-amp-hour lithium-air cells that achieve 600 watt hours per kilogram and lithium-water batteries that have achieved over 1,300 watt hours per kilogram. PolyPlus expects to start commercial sales of lithium-water batteries in 2 years, lithium-air primary batteries in 3 years, and rechargeable lithium-air batteries in 5 to 6 years.”
Global equity market fluctuations
Overall broader market corrections have demonstrated weakness as the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Australian equity index declined by 10.4 and 9.5 percent respectively. The impacts of negative data and sentiment on many resource and energy products have further contributed to a decline in lithium equity valuations since the start of the year. The Global X Lithium ETF (NYSE:LIT) in some ways provides a proxy for the overall lithium industry with the caveat that a considerable portion of the represented index constituency is not reflective of pure play lithium exposure. Overall, the index has declined 32.3 percent on a year to date basis. The Byron Capital Markets Lithium index has experienced more weakness possibly attributed to increased exploration and development risk exposure from its constituents with the overall value declining 41.7 percent since the start of the year.
Over the course of the year, a number of lithium exploration and development companies have engaged in direct affiliations with consumer electronics companies, industrial conglomerates and battery manufacturers in order to develop the lithium resources. There have also been cooperative ventures for electric vehicle initiatives with automotive and battery manufacturers, universities and governments to further prospective development and research.
Securities Disclosure: I, Dave Brown, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.