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  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on August 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Lithium, ,   

    From Stanford: “New source of energy-critical lithium found in supervolcanoes, Stanford researchers find” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    August 16, 2017
    Danielle Torrent Tucker

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    Stanford researchers detail a new method for locating lithium in lake deposits from ancient supervolcanoes, which appear as large holes in the ground that often fill with water to form a lake, such as Crater Lake in Oregon, pictured here. (Image credit: Lindsay Snow / Shutterstock)

    Stanford researchers show that lake sediments preserved within ancient supervolcanoes can host large lithium-rich clay deposits. A domestic source of lithium would help meet the rising demand for this valuable metal, which is critical for modern technology.

    Most of the lithium used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power modern electronics comes from Australia and Chile. But Stanford scientists say there are large deposits in sources right here in America: supervolcanoes.

    In a study published today in Nature Communications, scientists detail a new method for locating lithium in supervolcanic lake deposits. The findings represent an important step toward diversifying the supply of this valuable silvery-white metal, since lithium is an energy-critical strategic resource, said study co-author Gail Mahood, a professor of geological sciences at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

    “We’re going to have to use electric vehicles and large storage batteries to decrease our carbon footprint,” Mahood said. “It’s important to identify lithium resources in the U.S. so that our supply does not rely on single companies or countries in a way that makes us subject to economic or political manipulation.”

    Supervolcanoes can produce massive eruptions of hundreds to thousands of cubic kilometers of magma – up to 10,000 times more than a typical eruption from a Hawaiian volcano. They also produce vast quantities of pumice and volcanic ash that are spread over wide areas. They appear as huge holes in the ground, known as calderas, rather than the cone-like shape typically associated with volcanoes because the enormous loss of magma causes the roof of the chamber to collapse following eruption.

    The resulting hole often fills with water to form a lake – Oregon’s Crater Lake is a prime example. Over tens of thousands of years, rainfall and hot springs leach out lithium from the volcanic deposits. The lithium accumulates, along with sediments, in the caldera lake, where it becomes concentrated in a clay called hectorite.

    Exploring supervolcanoes for lithium would diversify its global supply. Major lithium deposits are currently mined from brine deposits in high-altitude salt flats in Chile and pegmatite deposits in Australia. The supervolcanoes pose little risk of eruption because they are ancient.

    “The caldera is the ideal depositional basin for all this lithium,” said lead author Thomas Benson, a recent PhD graduate at Stanford Earth, who began working on the study in 2012.

    Since its discovery in the 1800s, lithium has largely been used in psychiatric treatments and nuclear weapons. Beginning in the 2000s, lithium became the major component of lithium-ion batteries, which today provide portable power for everything from cellphones and laptops to electric cars. Volvo Cars recently announced its commitment to only produce new models of its vehicles as hybrids or battery-powered options beginning in 2019, a sign that demand for lithium-ion batteries will continue to increase.

    “We’ve had a gold rush, so we know how, why and where gold occurs, but we never had a lithium rush,” Benson said. “The demand for lithium has outpaced the scientific understanding of the resource, so it’s essential for the fundamental science behind these resources to catch up.”

    Working backward

    To identify which supervolcanoes offer the best sources of lithium, researchers measured the original concentration of lithium in the magma. Because lithium is a volatile element that easily shifts from solid to liquid to vapor, it is very difficult to measure directly and original concentrations are poorly known.

    So, the researchers analyzed tiny bits of magma trapped in crystals during growth within the magma chamber. These “melt inclusions,” completely encapsulated within the crystals, survive the supereruption and remain intact throughout the weathering process. As such, melt inclusions record the original concentrations of lithium and other elements in the magma. Researchers sliced through the host crystals to expose these preserved magma blebs, which are 10 to 100 microns in diameter, then analyzed them with the Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe in the SHRIMP-RG Laboratory at Stanford Earth.

    “Understanding how lithium is transported in magmas and what causes a volcanic center to become enriched in lithium has never really systematically been done before,” Benson said.

    The team analyzed samples from a range of tectonic settings, including the Kings Valley deposit in the McDermitt volcanic field located on the Nevada-Oregon border, which erupted 16.5 to 15.5 million years ago and is known to be rich in lithium. They compared results from this volcanic center with samples from the High Rock caldera complex in Nevada, Sierra la Primavera in Mexico, Pantelleria in the Strait of Sicily, Yellowstone in Wyoming and Hideaway Park in Colorado, and determined that lithium concentrations varied widely as a function of the tectonic setting of the supervolcano.

    “If you have a lot of magma erupting, it doesn’t have to have as much lithium in it to produce something that is worthy of economic interest as we previously thought,” Mahood said. “You don’t need extraordinarily high concentrations of lithium in the magma to form lithium deposits and reserves.”

    Improving identification

    In addition to exploring for lithium, the researchers analyzed other trace elements to determine their correlations with lithium concentrations. As a result, they discovered a previously unknown correlation that will now enable geologists to identify candidate supervolcanoes for lithium deposits in a much easier way than measuring lithium directly in melt inclusions. The trace elements can be used as a proxy for original lithium concentration. For example, greater abundance of easily analyzed rubidium in the bulk deposits indicates more lithium, whereas high concentrations of zirconium indicate less lithium.

    “We can essentially use the zirconium content to determine the lithium content within about 100 parts per million,” Benson said. “Now that we have a way to easily find more of these lithium deposits, it shows that this fundamental geological work can help solve societal problems – that’s really exciting.”

    Co-authors of the paper, “Lithium enrichment in intracontinental rhyolite magmas leads to Li deposits in caldera basins,” include Matthew Coble, a research and development scientist and engineer at Stanford University, and James Rytuba of the U.S. Geological Survey. The research was partially supported by a U.S. Department of Defense NDSEG Fellowship.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:39 am on May 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Lithium, , , Traumatic Brain Injuries May be Helped with Drug Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder   

    From Rutgers: “Traumatic Brain Injuries May be Helped with Drug Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    May 8, 2017
    Robin Lally

    Rutgers research indicates lithium may prevent brain cell damage.

    A drug used to treat bipolar disorder and other forms of depression may help to preserve brain function and prevent nerve cells from dying in people with a traumatic brain injury, according to a new Rutgers University study.

    In research published in Scientific Reports on May 8, Rutgers scientists discovered that lithium – used as a mood stabilizer and to treat depression and bipolar disorder – and rapamycin, a treatment for some forms of cancer, protected nerve cells in the brain and stopped the chemical glutamate from sending signals to other cells and creating further brain cell damage.

    “Many medications now used for those suffering with traumatic brain injury focus on treating the symptoms and stopping the pain instead of protecting any further damage from occurring,” said lead author Bonnie Firestein, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We wanted to find a drug that could protect the cells and keep them from dying.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States with an estimated 1.7 people sustaining a TBI annually. About 30 percent of all deaths due to injury are due, in part, to a TBI.

    The symptoms of a TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, personality changes and depression, as well as vision and hearing problems. The CDC reports that every day 153 people in the U.S. die from injuries that include a TBI. Children and older adults are at the highest risk, according to the CDC.

    When a TBI occurs, Firestein said, a violent blow to the head can result in the release of abnormally high concentrations of glutamate, which under normal circumstances is an important chemical for learning and memory. But an overproduction of glutamate, she said, causes toxicity which leads to cell damage and death.

    In the Rutgers research, scientists discovered that when these two FDA-approved medications were added to damaged cell cultures in the laboratory, the glutamate was not able to send messages between nerve cells. This stopped cell damage and death, Firestein said.

    Further research needs to be done, she said, in animals and humans to determine if these drugs could help prevent brain damage and nerve cell death in humans after a traumatic brain injury.

    “The most common traumatic brain injury that people deal with every day is concussion which affects thousands of children each year,” said Firestein. “Concussions are often hard to diagnose in children because they are not as vocal, which is why it is critical to find drugs that work to prevent long-term damage.”

    The Rutgers research was funded by a three-year grant from the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research. The commission is funded, in part, by traffic tickets for moving violations like speeding, using a cell phone or driving without a license, and provides $1 to the fund from every ticket issued.

    See the full article here .

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