Lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries remain the gold standard for energy storage, providing a lightweight, portable, and rechargeable source of power for a wide range of applications. The current growing demand for electric vehicles has put renewed focus on the methods used to mine and extract lithium for energy storage use, including the quality and scalability of these processes.
Lithium mining operations involve a wide range of teams and workflows, from quality control (QC) and research & development (R&D) laboratories, through to metal accounting, environmental monitoring, and process control. Here, we look at the role laboratory information management systems (LIMS) play in supporting efficient and effective lithium mining efforts, helping organizations share information between teams to ensure product quality and scale operations.
Informatics and quality challenges in lithium mining
The demanding performance requirements of modern li-ion batteries means manufacturers are focused on minimizing defects and controlling ever tighter specifications: For the mining industry, maintaining product quality is paramount.
Quality grading of mined materials is a key step in mining processes, as the purity of these materials varies depending on the seam being mined. However, factors such as moisture content, grindability, and material movement can impact the reliability of quality grading assays, and must be analyzed and shared with metallurgy teams to make adjustments when reporting metal accounting results. While some tests may be performed directly at the mining site, others require samples to be sent to QC laboratories and combined with data from a wide range of instruments and sources. Materials must be correctly sampled, registered, stored, and scheduled for testing, before results can be collected and reported. With so many moving parts, organizations need powerful informatics tools that support seamless information sharing between people, technologies, and workflows, in real-time.
Delivering product quality through smooth data sharing
LIMS provide a comprehensive solution for lithium mining data management, allowing businesses to centrally organize the vast quantities of information collected by various teams to make accessing, analyzing, and sharing data fast, convenient, and efficient.
Advanced LIMS such as Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS™ software offer enhanced levels of workflow integration, seamlessly connecting with tools such as laboratory execution systems (LES), scientific data management systems (SDMS), and electronic laboratory notebooks (ELN) to leverage efficiencies and protect data integrity. By removing the need to manually transfer data between systems, SampleManager LIMS helps organizations eliminate silos to save time and ensure product quality. For example, with testing protocols and process parameters stored centrally in the LIMS, information can be downloaded directly to instruments, expediting metal accounting and minimizing the potential for transcription errors to assure tests are performed correctly. And when updates to analytical methods are developed by R&D teams, these improvements can be shared and implemented across multiple teams much faster.
Supporting scalability, without compromising quality
Growing demand for electric vehicles has seen li-ion battery manufacturers face pressure to scale fast without compromising product value. For the lithium mining industry, ensuring operations can be expanded quickly and efficiently is therefore of critical importance.
To scale efficiently, mining companies require informatics solutions that can be rapidly deployed to new sites, facilitating seamless data sharing without impacting data integrity. However, adapting informatics systems to the requirements of individual teams across large organizations has traditionally required complex customization efforts, delaying and adding additional costs to roll-out. These challenges can be exacerbated if operations span multiple regions, countries, or continents.
SampleManager LIMS offers a flexible and convenient solution to the challenge of scaling data management, and can be implemented quickly without the need for complex customizations. With out-of-the box dashboards and intuitive workflow design tools, SampleManager LIMS allows organizations to quickly and easily configure the system themselves, according to their own requirements. Furthermore, because the LIMS provides full integration with LES, SDMS, and ELN software and offers cloud or on-premises deployment, it provides a highly extensible environment to meet the demands of global teams. So, when organizational needs change, the LIMS can be easily expanded to meet these requirements.