British Lithium has applied for two more patents following extensive research and development.

Coming less than two months after the company filed its first patent, the latest applications are part of an innovative hydro-metallurgical process that uses salt, rather than acid, to extract lithium, the key ingredient in making electric vehicle batteries.

With the help of £3 million Innovate UK funding, the St Austell-based company is also building a pilot plant where the lithium will be recovered and processed using recyclable salt as a reagent, rather than toxic chemicals. The pilot plant is currently in the early stages of construction and is scheduled to become operational in the last quarter of this year.

British Lithium’s head of metallurgy, Dr Klaas Peter van der Wielen, said: “Our research and development strategy is focused on finding effective acid-free solutions to extracting and processing lithium. The methods we use minimise waste and help protect the environment.”

Chartered patent attorney Kate Butler and her team from Sirius Intellectual Property have been helping British Lithium with their patent applications and the work has been funded by Innovate UK Edge.

“We are making extraordinary advances in our innovative methodology and are very grateful for the UK Government’s financial assistance to date,” said British Lithium CEO Andrew Smith.

“Our aim is to develop a hard rock quarry and integrated refinery capable of annually producing 20,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate with the most forward-thinking technological and sustainable solutions possible. This is another milestone moment in achieving our ambitions.”