Demand for lithium is soaring. And it's expected to increase 38-fold by the year 2030. That massive demand is hitting different sectors across the world.
Wondering where lithium technologies are producing the most jobs?
Read on for a breakdown of this unique mineral and the sectors where lithium is creating jobs in 2019.
What is Lithium?
Lithium is the lightest metal in the world. It's known for its unique physical properties. It's soft enough to cut with a knife and so lightly dense it can float on water.
But it's also a key element in lithium batteries. These provide a charge for top technologies like phones, laptops, and digital devices. They are all usually powered on by rechargeable lithium ion batteries.
It's also a key part of many renewable energy sources because batteries that use lithium are rechargeable.
How do they work?
They're made up of little power-generators called cells. These cells have a positive electrode, a negative electrode, and chemical electrolyte between them.
When the battery is charging, the positive end lets some lithium ions go. They move to the negative end and stay there.
And when the battery is powered on, the lithium ions run back to the positive electrode.
This kicks off energy that powers up the device or machine.
Demand for Lithium Technologies
As the call for these new devices increases, the demand for lithium technologies has been growing too. In 2014 alone, lithium production jumped by a total of six percent worldwide.
And the need for lithium is expected to increase even more in the future. This is because it's being used in everything from handheld devices and emerging energy technologies to cars.
That big demand is creeping into a bunch of different industries. Here are the top arenas where lithium technologies are creating jobs in 2019:
Lithium generally comes from two sources: mines and brine water. That means people need to pull the element out of places like water mines, ore, or clay.
The result has been a steady increasing demand for mining. In fact, the countries of Chile and Argentina each increased their lithium production by 15 percent in recent years.
That means there's a growing need for workers to pull out the essential mineral and prep it for use in technology.
And some United States companies are starting to create technologies to pull lithium from raw brine. This high-tech method would mean a high potential for even more jobs for lithium harvesters.
2. Auto Industry
Trends in the auto industry are moving away from fossil fuels and moving towards renewable energy. And a top choice is electric vehicles that are fueled by lithium cells. Companies focused on electric vehicle or EV batteries for electric vehicles like LithiumBatteryPower.com have begun to soar in revenue over the last 5 years.
This trend is having a massive impact on the industry. In 2017, the North American market for fuel cell electric vehicles was around $170 million. And that's expected to jump by 41 percent in the next five years.
Hybrid versions of vehicles are a hotbed for lithium tech. These automobiles use lithium batteries to store energy and boost fuel efficiency. Traditional fuel might be the initial source of energy, but lithium resources make sure that fuel goes a much longer way.
With that demand comes a heavy need for auto manufacturers and individuals to craft these energy-efficient machines.
3. Energy Storage
The world is quickly turning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. But that energy needs to be stored in batteries when the wind stops or the sun goes down.
Lithium batteries are being used to harness this power for daily use. As areas turn to these new resources, there will be a need for manufacturers.
And more jobs will pop up for maintenance on renewable energy machines.
One of the latest crazes in the housing industry is tiny houses. These small, efficient homes pack the necessities of life into a small area.
But many people are using these homes to set up shop off the grid. That means they don't have access to the traditional power systems booting up most cities.
The result is housing that relies heavily on lithium technologies. And that also requires specialized construction and new jobs.
5. Smart Phones
Smart phones have rapidly become a part of everyday life for most. And almost half of the world's population is expected to own a smartphone by the year 2021.
Because of their rechargeable capabilities, lithium batteries are driving these handheld devices. Lithium is also a good element for these tiny computers because it's relatively tolerant to both hot and cold.
The rise in smartphones means a rise in phone manufacturers, tower operators, sales-workers, and a range of related jobs.
6. Recycling and Research
Even though the use of lithium batteries has increased steadily, the technology to recycle them has struggled to keep up. In the future, this is expected to change.
And the government is pushing programs to try to catch recycling up. The Department of Energy just opened its first lithium ion battery recycling research and development center.
These programs are working on creating new technology for separation. That means they hope to pull the reusable materials from the waste of batteries.
That also means these groups could create a score of new jobs. And it's expected to both pull down the cost of production and build a national supply of lithium materials.
High-powered technology like drones have taken off in recent years. And they usually run off of lithium ion batteries.
The market for drones is expected to jump by more than 10 percent by 2023. That will bring on manufacturing jobs, but drones also are making work easier and more efficient in a range of sectors.
They're being used for things like delivery and emergency services. They can be used in agricultural jobs.
And construction teams are using drones to survey areas and look at angles that might not be easily to get to otherwise.
More on the Latest Lithium Technologies
This look at lithium technologies shows the future is bright for this powerful material.