June 14, 2024 at 9:26 am

How Pyrite Or “Fool’s Gold” Could Be The Fuel Of The Future Thanks To Its Lithium Connection

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

When everyone was out there looking for gold, it’s invaluable lookalike was named “fool’s gold” for obvious reasons.

Now, though, pyrite might be getting the last laugh.

To understand why, you have to understand that lithium is one of the most important elements on the periodic table today.

It’s lightweight and gains and loses ions easily, making it ideal to power the batteries the go into just about every piece of modern technology out there.

It’s also crucial to the creation of tritium, the hydrogen isotope at the heart of nuclear fusion.

Source: Shutterstock

This, and the transition to electric vehicles, is going to require a lot of green energy – and a way to store it, too.

The downside of lithium is that it’s highly reactive and difficult to extract from igneous rock and saltwater brine.

A new study from the Isotopic and Biogeochemical Characterization of Geological Materials (IsoBioGeM) recently suggested pyrite – fool’s gold – could be a source of lithium as well.

The researchers analyzed 15 sedimentary rock samples from the Appalachian basin. They were dated to the middle Devonian (400 million years ago) and contained sources of lithium within pyrite minerals in shale.

This means organic-rich shale could have higher concentrations of lithium than anyone expected.

“These initial findings suggest that pyrite in conjunction with organic matter may play a previously unrecognized role in the Li distribution in organic-rich shales. The geochemical processes that might cause Li enrichments associated with pyrite are not well-understood…but using material from previous industrial operations as a source of additional Li would be attractive as it would generate little to no new waste material.”

Source: Shutterstock

In addition, this would be a very green option. Lithium mines cause environmental degradation, and a lot of it. We could extract this new source of lithium from past and present oil and gas operations, making the transition from fossil fuels even easier.

Plenty of “leftovers” from industrial mining operations, like tailings and drill cuttings, could actually contain lithium deposits in the discarded shale and pyrite.

So I guess fool’s gold is going to have to ask, “who’s laughing now?”

Because it might end up being at least as valuable as real gold after all.

If you think that’s impressive, check out this story about a “goldmine” of lithium that was found in the U.S. that could completely change the EV battery game.