Using AI to detect lithium deposits from space 

Using AI to detect lithium deposits from space 

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Startup Asterra in Israel has filed a patent to use radar data from satellites to identify deposits of lithium.

The patent was based on extensive field testing for validation and is based on research into locating water on Mars.

“The expansion to mining is a natural progression of our ability to use AI analytics to monitor soil moisture underground,” said Elly Perets, CEO of ASTERRA. “It also fulfills our mission to become humanity’s eyes to protect the environment. “

The US Department of Energy recently published its National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, which makes sourcing lithium inside the US a priority through the year 2030 because this mineral is often unavailable to meet the needs of the manufacturing industry. 

Sourcing lithium is a key requirement for batteries for electric vehicles. For example, Italvolt in Italy has signed a deal with CTR in the US to access lithium deposits. Two firms in the UK are also looking to extract lithium from brine deposits in Cornwall.  

“The expansion to mining is a natural progression of our ability to use AI analytics to monitor soil moisture underground,” said Lauren Guy, CTO & Founder of Asterra.

Asterra’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms extract the signal of lithium concentration underground from satellite based Polarimetry Synthetic Aperture Radar (PolSAR) data and can pinpoint locations containing high lithium. This technology creates a way to find lithium before investing in costly exploration with intensive labour, and where it may result in environmental destruction and civil conflicts.

“Lithium is the wonder metal at the heart of the global desire to move to cleaner energy with reduced carbon emissions, but the demand exceeds the supply. This causes an almost 500 percent increase in lithium prices and harms the effort to stop global warming,” said Guy. “Global demand for lithium is insatiable, and the supply crisis is present and significant. Asterra can now focus the efforts of companies to mine the metal in a much more efficient and accurate way.”

The data is acquired from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors on satellites such as Radasat through the European Space Agency, which offers free access to data for research and development in the 5.3GHz C band. ICeye in Finland is also launching a constellation of radar satellites for monitoring applications.

Asterra’s satellite based PolSAR technology is already used to find underwater leaks in the water utility industry and also provides soil moisture data to mining operations. Because it provides intelligence regardless of weather conditions, time of day, and penetrates the ground and obstructions including pavement, trees, and soil, it is an efficient solution for underground monitoring.

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