Lithium, lithium everywhere

    Posting is a little light these days, as I’ve been doing extra duty on Fresh Air. Monday, we had boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. Tomorrow, you’ll enjoy British comedian Steve Coogan and Las Vegas pawn broker Rick Harrison.

    Today, we have a fascinating discussion of electric cars, and the element lithium. Chances are you have some lithium on your person now – even if you aren’t being treated for bipolar disorder. Lithium ion batteries are everywhere – in our IPod’s, laptops and smart phones.

    My guest, Popular Science senior editor Seth Fletcher chronicles the endless quest for batteries powerful and light enough to plug into a car and take us a highway speeds for a few hundred miles. Several major manufacturers are rolling out new electric and hybrid vehicles, and one byproduct of that is a new lithium economy.

    Fletcher also travels to the world’s largest known lithium deposits, and explains how the stuff is extracted. Turns out lithium is too volatile to exist in its pure form, so you won’t find veins of it like iron or coal.

    It’s found in salt flats in South America, and Fletcher’s description of its extraction and the politics around that are interesting.

    You can hear Fresh Air at 3 and 7 on WHYY. If you’re outside the Philadelphia area, find a station here. And you can always listen, download or get more information at the Fresh Air website.

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