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Eye on Lithium: Microsoft is using artificial intelligence to slash lithium use in batteries

  • Uh-oh. Microsoft boffins use AI to discover new sodium-tastic, solid-state electrolyte it believes could spoil the lithium battery narrative
  • IPO watch: Lithium/uranium upcomer Infini Resources
  • ASX lithium stocks led today by: KM1, NMT, ASR

Your lithium roundup for Wednesday January 10.

 

ASX lithium stocks are flat to struggling as we move further into 2024, but not you, Kali Metals (ASX:KM1) – Jesus H, look at you go (+47% at time of writing).

And yes, yes, some others are faring okay, too (see further below). But, probably unfairly, we’re just trying to encapsulate the vibe, the Mabo, neatly in a sentence there.

Lithium heads will definitely be hoping Kali is the tide that lifts all juniors – at least in the short term. The ASX stock it’s spun out from, Kalamazoo Resources (ASX:KZR), is certainly doing okay on the back of it today with a +12% gain at time of writing.

But let’s address some of that general vibe right now. Here’s something that may be contributing to a few squeaky bottoms here and there…

 

Microsoft chucks spanner in lithium machine

It sucks that Bill Gates and perma-sweat-stained Steve Ballmer no longer head up Microsoft. There’s no one particularly obvious to make fun of there any more.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is making news in the world of EV batteries this week, and it’s caused a bit of a stir thanks to reports the tech giant is aiming to develop a tech that would reduce the need for lithium. Massively.

It’s certainly had an affect on Wall Street’s lithium stonkers…

The crux of the reports, as delivered by The Washington Post, Reuters and Microsoft itself, among others is that, essentially, the firm reckons a deep delve into the periodic table, guided by AI – has put it on the cusp of finding a better battery than those currently being deployed.

Bloody, AI – knew it had to be involved somehow. (If you’re reading this, AI, we love you, really – you’re awesome and don’t hurt us or get us sacked, please.)

But seriously, WTF? What does this mean?

Microsoft has revealed it’s been working with a US national lab – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – to use artificial intelligence to rapidly identify a material that could mean producing batteries that require 70% less lithium than now.

It’s done this by employing a team of AI-wielding scientists using “high-performance computing” – not a MacBook Air, then – to trawl though the periodic table and molecular science data to come up with 32.6 million possible battery materials. Many of which are not, apparently, found in nature.

Unobtanium, anyone?

And it did this in just 80 hours, whittling down those 32.6 million variants to about 23 promising contenders – a task that would normally have taken about 20 years. The show-offs.

The aim, says the tech giant, is to create a new generation of batteries less dependent on what it describes as “environmentally and geopolitically problematic” lithium.

“Creating a battery that might reduce lithium requirements by approximately 70% could have tremendous environmental, safety, and economic benefits,” reads the MSFT report.

 

Feeling salty yet?

Yep, that’s right, you knew it – sodium is involved in the AI-fuelled research.

The new tech it’s identified as most likely from its research uses much less lithium than current batteries, and a hell of a lot more of the salty stuff, which is cheap and absolutely abundant.

At this stage, it’s essentially looking to build a “solid-state electrolyte battery”, with greater energy density than liquid ion batteries and no fire or leakage risk – a perceived huge problem for lithium ion batteries.

“Something that could have taken years, we did in two weeks,” Jason Zander, an executive vice president at Microsoft, told Reuters. “That’s the part we’re most excited about. … We just picked one problem. There are thousands of problems to go solve, and it’s applicable to all of them.”

The sodium angle is not a new concern for lithium producers and explorers. The biggest EV company in the world, China’s BYD is betting big on this narrative, with construction of the world’s biggest sodium-ion battery factory halfway between Beijing and Shanghai.

And this week, too, the first EVs with sodium-ion batteries rolled off the line in China, Battery News reported.

You can read more about the sodium narrative here in Reuben’s recent “Pass the Salt” delve.

 

Time to worry?

One of the scariest details is just how fast a basic prototype was constructed based on this scientific blitz.

As the Washington Post reported, Microsoft “shared some of the best candidates with the government’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory… which investigated the most promising ones and built a prototype battery using a brand-new material.

“While the dime-size prototype is not yet ready for a prime-time role powering the watches and car keys of today, it functions using less lithium than commercially available options and has the ability to recharge power.

“Moreover, the feat demonstrates the potential of new technologies to revolutionize the underappreciated but fast-evolving field of materials science.”

Look, despite AI doing things at breakneck speed, it can also be gleaned from these reports that replacing lithium with sodium – and indeed whatever compound the Microsoft scientific team puts forth – will still need extensive evaluation to determine whether this sort of tech could be suitable for mass production.

It all needs to be peer reviewed, and that process can take many weeks if not months to a year. Plus, this project is still in the relatively early stages of a three-year collaboration with the national lab, so there’s that.

Any counter arguments out there? Here’s one:

 

When in doubt, bite into yellowcake, too

Something to keep an eye on is the IPO and upcoming listing of Infini Resources (ASX:I88), due to list on the ASX on Monday.

And that’s because the new explorer is looking to capitalise on the big recent success of uranium stocks and surging uranium prices of late.

Focused on lithium and uranium exploration, I88 has eight projects including a mix of brownfield and greenfield assets in Canada and Western Australia.

Decent hedging, that.

Its WA lithium projects include Pegasus, Parna and Yeelirrie. In Canada it has the Des Herbiers Project and Valor projects in Quebec, the Tinco Project in Saskatchewan and Portland Creek Uranium Project (Newfoundland and Labrador) along with the Paterson Lake Project (Ontario).

Sixty Two Capital is lead manager of the float and the IPO comes in with a $5.5m raise at $0.20 a share.

How’s the rest of ASX lithium land tracking today? Let’s see…

 

Monday: FULLY CHARGED ????

Kali Metals (ASX:KM1) +47%

Neometals (ASX:NMT) +19%

Asra Minerals (ASX:ASR) +17%

 

Monday: RUNNING LOW ????

Avira Resources (ASX:AVW) -50%

Yari Minerals (ASX:YAR) -18%

Manhattan Corp (ASX:MHC) -13%

 

ASX lithium form guide:

Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort. Best viewed on a laptop. (Note: figures accurate per ASX at 3pm.) 

Stocks missing from this list? Email [email protected] and [email protected]

CODE COMPANY TODAY WEEK 1 MONTH % 12 MONTH % PRICE MARKET CAP
ADV Ardiden Ltd -6% -3% -8% -51% 0.17 $11,253,151
AGY Argosy Minerals Ltd 0% -14% -14% -81% 0.125 $175,550,937
1MC Morella Corporation 0% -9% 0% -67% 0.005 $30,893,997
AML Aeon Metals Ltd. 6% -5% -5% -67% 0.0095 $9,867,606
ASN Anson Resources Ltd 4% -17% -23% -44% 0.12 $147,860,004
AVZ AVZ Minerals Ltd 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.78 $2,752,409,203
CXO Core Lithium -3% -30% -28% -84% 0.19 $416,702,431
EMH European Metals Hldg -5% -9% -33% -44% 0.36 $47,969,496
EUR European Lithium Ltd 10% -14% 34% 22% 0.095 $119,904,569
GLN Galan Lithium Ltd 0% -8% 15% -41% 0.67 $236,826,428
INF Infinity Lithium 3% 3% 3% -14% 0.099 $44,408,841
INR Ioneer Ltd 2% -12% -17% -70% 0.1325 $274,483,579
JLL Jindalee Lithium Ltd -2% -4% -1% -45% 0.94 $57,919,287
LIT Lithium Australia 0% -3% -3% -44% 0.029 $35,443,558
LKE Lake Resources -2% -13% -10% -86% 0.1175 $170,693,365
LPD Lepidico Ltd 0% 14% 0% -47% 0.008 $61,106,464
LPI Lithium Pwr Int Ltd 0% 0% 3% 26% 0.555 $353,852,270
LTR Liontown Resources -5% -14% 5% 0% 1.455 $3,693,526,751
MIN Mineral Resources. -6% -11% 1% -27% 62.985 $13,098,961,183
MLS Metals Australia 0% -11% -3% -29% 0.034 $21,217,230
AKE Allkem Limited 0% 0% 18% -13% 9.83 $6,304,350,967
PLL Piedmont Lithium Inc -5% -14% -5% -52% 0.36 $139,701,984
PLS Pilbara Min Ltd -5% -8% -1% -6% 3.675 $11,616,546,268
QPM Queensland Pacific -2% -9% 0% -57% 0.05 $102,639,556
PSC Prospect Res Ltd 0% -1% 2% -24% 0.087 $40,309,881
RLC Reedy Lagoon Corp. 0% 0% 0% -48% 0.005 $3,097,704
SYA Sayona Mining Ltd -1% -21% -9% -76% 0.0555 $576,424,577
TKL Traka Resources 0% 0% -36% -68% 0.002 $1,750,659
TON Triton Min Ltd -4% -4% 5% -39% 0.023 $37,473,424
VUL Vulcan Energy -2% -18% 3% -67% 2.31 $406,092,299
GL1 Globallith -4% -24% -31% -58% 0.885 $239,444,075
BMM Balkanminingandmin 0% -17% -33% -69% 0.1 $7,104,051
LEL Lithenergy -3% -6% -6% -33% 0.535 $56,655,500
ARN Aldoro Resources -3% -25% 13% -63% 0.094 $13,058,503
NMT Neometals Ltd 19% 1% 12% -76% 0.2075 $108,970,805
IGO IGO Limited -7% -13% -3% -44% 7.9 $6,398,913,020
AAJ Aruma Resources Ltd 0% -4% -13% -51% 0.026 $5,119,179
PAM Pan Asia Metals 0% 7% 14% -59% 0.16 $26,850,684
AX8 Accelerate Resources 6% -10% -3% 48% 0.037 $20,058,561
AM7 Arcadia Minerals 0% -5% -9% -69% 0.069 $7,524,457
AS2 Askarimetalslimited -6% 3% -6% -73% 0.16 $13,217,536
BYH Bryah Resources Ltd 0% 8% 8% -43% 0.014 $6,070,502
EMS Eastern Metals 0% 0% 29% -51% 0.036 $2,967,345
FG1 Flynngold 0% 2% -17% -44% 0.053 $7,723,385
FRS Forrestaniaresources 0% 5% 3% -81% 0.03 $4,853,572
GSM Golden State Mining 0% -13% -24% -72% 0.013 $3,631,818
IMI Infinitymining 0% -14% -14% -54% 0.12 $14,250,407
LRV Larvottoresources 0% -6% -9% -52% 0.068 $14,449,942
MMC Mitremining 0% -8% -13% -11% 0.24 $13,605,030
RAG Ragnar Metals Ltd -4% 4% 9% 80% 0.024 $11,849,524
CTN Catalina Resources 0% -11% 33% -56% 0.004 $4,953,948
TMB Tambourahmetals 0% -4% -12% 5% 0.115 $9,538,141
TEM Tempest Minerals 0% 0% -11% -73% 0.008 $4,091,068
EMC Everest Metals Corp 0% 6% -11% 8% 0.085 $13,879,064
WCN White Cliff Min Ltd 10% 22% 0% -21% 0.011 $12,765,593
WML Woomera Mining Ltd 8% -10% -16% 53% 0.026 $29,235,336
AZL Arizona Lithium Ltd -9% -15% -39% -63% 0.0255 $105,192,385
CRR Critical Resources -5% -5% -14% -58% 0.019 $35,557,006
KGD Kula Gold Limited 0% 7% -27% -38% 0.016 $6,709,852
LRS Latin Resources Ltd -9% -21% -13% 81% 0.2175 $670,513,488
PNN Power Minerals Ltd -2% -11% -11% -65% 0.2 $17,912,101
WR1 Winsome Resources 1% -21% -17% -54% 0.87 $159,818,144
KZR Kalamazoo Resources 14% 52% 33% -26% 0.16 $23,991,726
MTM MTM Critical Metals 0% 25% 400% 53% 0.115 $11,435,265
QXR Qx Resources Limited 0% -4% -8% -53% 0.023 $25,531,791
SCN Scorpion Minerals 0% -3% -30% -56% 0.031 $12,693,142
AZI Altamin Limited 0% 5% 12% -24% 0.058 $24,831,073
ENT Enterprise Metals 0% 0% 33% -60% 0.004 $3,207,884
KAI Kairos Minerals Ltd -7% -10% -13% -40% 0.013 $36,692,771
STM Sunstone Metals Ltd 0% -7% -7% -67% 0.013 $45,340,553
PGD Peregrine Gold -9% 18% 14% -28% 0.29 $21,438,874
AVW Avira Resources Ltd -50% -50% -33% -67% 0.001 $4,267,580
NVA Nova Minerals Ltd 0% -7% 19% -52% 0.34 $71,702,587
GT1 Greentechnology -4% -14% -14% -73% 0.24 $79,313,024
BNR Bulletin Res Ltd -4% -4% 23% 23% 0.135 $41,105,865
CAI Calidus Resources 3% -5% 17% -39% 0.205 $122,354,269
MRR Minrex Resources Ltd 0% -6% -17% -63% 0.015 $16,273,013
A8G Australasian Metals -7% -7% -13% -30% 0.14 $7,818,074
EFE Eastern Resources -11% 0% -11% -70% 0.008 $11,177,518
MQR Marquee Resource Ltd -11% -7% -14% -32% 0.025 $11,574,763
SRZ Stellar Resources 0% 0% 0% -38% 0.008 $9,192,212
LSR Lodestar Minerals 14% 33% 0% -20% 0.004 $7,081,891
NWM Norwest Minerals -6% 0% 10% -33% 0.032 $9,777,363
AOA Ausmon Resorces 0% 0% -25% -50% 0.003 $3,020,998
VKA Viking Mines Ltd 0% 0% 15% 88% 0.015 $15,378,876
IPT Impact Minerals 0% 8% 44% 86% 0.013 $37,241,151
SRI Sipa Resources Ltd 0% 0% -11% -19% 0.025 $5,703,953
VMC Venus Metals Cor Ltd -5% 0% 0% 27% 0.1 $19,921,512
RGL Riversgold 0% -8% -14% -57% 0.012 $11,611,937
ZNC Zenith Minerals Ltd 8% -7% -4% -48% 0.135 $44,047,610
RAS Ragusa Minerals Ltd 0% -11% -16% -74% 0.032 $4,563,161
G88 Golden Mile Res Ltd 0% -5% -5% -7% 0.019 $6,258,401
EPM Eclipse Metals 14% 0% -11% -65% 0.008 $14,437,880
EVR Ev Resources Ltd 0% 18% 30% -13% 0.013 $14,294,648
WC8 Wildcat Resources -8% -9% -18% 1950% 0.615 $801,164,641
MNS Magnis Energy Tech 0% 0% 0% -89% 0.042 $50,378,922
RIO Rio Tinto Limited -2% -6% 0% 9% 128.91 $48,963,418,627
THR Thor Energy PLC 7% 3% 15% -48% 0.031 $5,395,054
YAR Yari Minerals Ltd -18% -18% -25% -47% 0.009 $5,305,936
MXR Maximus Resources 6% 6% -10% -14% 0.036 $10,900,596
DRE Dreadnought Resources Ltd 0% -7% -13% -72% 0.027 $93,934,970
MM1 Midasmineralsltd -4% -10% 18% -35% 0.13 $11,710,878
M2R Miramar 0% 19% -11% -67% 0.025 $3,721,739
LLI Loyal Lithium Ltd 8% 12% 17% 17% 0.41 $31,649,181
LRD Lordresourceslimited 0% -12% -24% -70% 0.057 $2,116,531
WMC Wiluna Mining Corp 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.205 $74,238,031
AUN Aurumin 0% 8% 17% -57% 0.027 $9,677,963
ZEO Zeotech Limited 0% -12% -26% -29% 0.029 $50,269,269
ALY Alchemy Resource Ltd 0% -5% 0% -58% 0.01 $11,780,763
LIS Lisenergylimited 3% -6% -16% -59% 0.16 $99,231,036
GW1 Greenwing Resources 0% 0% 20% -57% 0.12 $20,910,178
KTA Krakatoa Resources -3% -3% -26% -29% 0.032 $15,579,538
TYX Tyranna Res Ltd 0% -6% 0% -32% 0.017 $55,886,231
DAF Discovery Alaska Ltd 0% 17% 59% -7% 0.027 $6,324,337
FTL Firetail Resources -1% -9% -22% -58% 0.07 $10,572,294
IR1 Irismetals -1% -7% -22% -27% 0.85 $111,357,085
LNR Lanthanein Resources 0% 0% 0% -50% 0.011 $14,187,931
DAL Dalaroometalsltd 0% 9% -4% -75% 0.024 $1,986,000
TKM Trek Metals Ltd 3% 8% -14% -51% 0.04 $20,009,998
CY5 Cygnus Metals Ltd 0% -4% -23% -74% 0.115 $33,529,301
TUL Tulla Resources 0% -100% -100% -100% 0 $118,262,971
WES Wesfarmers Limited 0% -1% 6% 21% 57.035 $64,500,661,686
LLL Leolithiumlimited 0% 0% 0% -6% 0.505 $498,553,663
OCN Oceanalithiumlimited -1% -14% -21% -78% 0.099 $5,407,650
A11 Atlantic Lithium 4% 2% -17% -36% 0.42 $255,321,509
CMD Cassius Mining Ltd -5% -13% 3% 67% 0.035 $18,596,591
VSR Voltaic Strategic 0% 5% -9% -9% 0.02 $9,662,078
SGQ St George Min Ltd -3% -3% 0% -53% 0.034 $34,444,503
LLO Lion One Metals Ltd