Subscribe options

Select your newsletters:


Please enter your email address:

@

News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • Making remote handling less remote

    Over a wet and windy three-day period on the ITER site in November, around 90 representatives of the ITER Organization, the Domestic Agencies of Europe and Japa [...]

    Read more

  • The framework for sharing ITER intellectual property

    In signing the ITER Agreement in 2006, the seven ITER Members were agreeing not only to share in the costs of constructing and operating the ITER facility, but [...]

    Read more

  • Wendelstein achieves ultra-precise magnetic topology

    A recent article in the online journal Nature Communications confirms that the complex topology of the magnetic field of Wendelstein 7-X—the world's largest ste [...]

    Read more

  • The Matrix, rigid and fluid

    A fast-growing array of structures and buildings has been emerging across the ITER worksite platform under the control and supervision of the European Domestic [...]

    Read more

  • By road, river and sea

    They travelled by road from the Air Liquide factory near Grenoble, sailed down the Rhône River from Lyon and entered the Mediterranean to the east of Fos-sur-Me [...]

    Read more

Of Interest

See archived articles

The beauty and power of lithium

-Phil Dooley, EFDA

This kunzite crystal is not only beautiful, but it contains lithium, a raw material for fusion. In future fusion power stations lithium will be converted into one of the potent fusion fuels, tritium, by neutron bombardment.

Kunzite is a silicate that contains lithium and also aluminium. It also comes in shades of yellow and also a green variety, which is known as hiddenite. Hiddenite crystals can grow to huge sizes—the biggest ever found being over 14 metres long.

There are other lithium-containing minerals: rose or yellow coloured lepidolite, which contains potassium and fluorine, or red-brown lithiophylite, which is lithium manganese phosphate. These are all types of granite, an igneous rock formed by cooling volcanic magma or lava.

Kunzite is one of several lithium-containing minerals. The total lithium content in the Earth's crust is estimated at between 20 and 70 parts per million. (Click to view larger version...)
Kunzite is one of several lithium-containing minerals. The total lithium content in the Earth's crust is estimated at between 20 and 70 parts per million.
The total lithium content in the Earth's crust is estimated at between 20 and 70 parts per million (compared with the content in water of deuterium—fusion's other fuel—which is 35 parts per million). However the economically viable reserves are estimated to be a modest 13 million tons.

For comparison, the estimated viable uranium deposits amount to 35 million tons—but fusion gives four times more energy per kilogram than uranium. Even the vast coal deposits of the world, estimated at 860 billion tons, seem less extensive when you factor in that, per kilogram of fuel, fusion is four million times more efficient than coal at producing energy.

There is much speculation about how long the terrestrial deposits of these fuels might last, but it is perhaps irrelevant. The value of lithium as a potent fusion fuel will doubtless inspire new processing techniques which will enable extraction of lithium from sea water which will end the discussion. The estimated reserves of lithium in the ocean is 230 billion tons, several million years' supply.

This story was originally published on the EFDA website.


return to the latest published articles