American-Made Challenges: Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize

Funding Agency:
Department of Energy

The American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize seeks to drive forward the development of economic DLE from geothermal brines found at the Salton Sea by partnering novel geothermal and non-geothermal expertise with experienced DLE industry experts to overcome challenges of geothermal lithium extraction by:

  • Developing electrochemical/electrolysis processes for the direct conversion of a lithium-bearing geothermal brine to a lithium hydroxide product without the intermediate creation of lithium carbonate.
  • Developing new absorbents, precipitants, catalysts, or new processing conditions that can efficiently and selectively extract lithium directly from geothermal brines.
  • Advancements that improve the yield and achievable product purity.
  • Advancements that reduce energy and water consumption rates.
  • Advancements that minimize and/or monetize waste products.

Lithium is a major component of high-charge-density batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale electricity storage. It is expected that global demand for lithium will increase by 500% by 2050 due to widespread adoption of electric vehicles and grid-scale battery storage, making lithium supplies a crucial element in the clean energy supply chain. 

The current U.S. lithium stock is almost entirely imported, with only 1% of U.S. lithium supply being sourced domestically. Furthermore, traditional sources of lithium are environmentally destructive. This combination of rapidly expanding global demand and lack of a safe, domestic supply has created an urgency to develop a safe, domestic, cost-competitive source of lithium to ensure American leadership in the transition to a carbon-free economy and a robust domestic supply chain.

The Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize consists of three phases that will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to improve the profitability of DLE from geothermal brines. Each stage will include a contest period when participants work to rapidly advance their solutions.

Phase 1 Submission Deadline: July 1, 2021

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Individuals can compete alone or as a group.

o An individual prize participant (who is not competing as a member of a group) must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. Participants must also be affiliated with an accredited U.S. institution of higher education. Applicants of technical colleges, community colleges, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are especially encouraged to compete.

o A group of individuals, competing as one competitor team, may win, provided (a) that the online account holder of the submission is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident and (b) that all group members are affiliated with an accredited U.S. institution of higher education. Groups competing as a team do not need all members to be affiliated with the same institution of higher education.

Funding Type



Grad/Prof Students


Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

July 1, 2021