Israeli space-tech startup can now locate lithium deposits on Earth

ASTERRA’s groundbreaking satellite image analysis tech can find precious minerals without breaking ground.

 Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. Picture taken August 12, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/AGUSTIN MARCARIAN)
Brine pools used to extract lithium are seen at the Salar del Rincon salt flat, in Salta, Argentina August 12, 2021. Picture taken August 12, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/AGUSTIN MARCARIAN)

Using technology originally intended to find deposits of subterranean water on Mars, Israeli start-up ASTERRA’s satellite-image analysis software can now detect deposits of lithium under Earth’s surface from space.

Currently one of the tech manufacturing market’s most sought-after minerals, lithium is used in electric vehicles, semiconductors, chips, cell phones – anywhere you find a battery, you’ll probably see lithium in use.

As such, the company’s tech development discovery is a remarkable windfall, and ASTERRA has registered a patent for the new use of its technology in finding lithium reservoirs around the world, while still developing its water-finding capabilities.

Having been used in over 70 countries since 2015, ASTERRA’s solution uses advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to decode satellites’ synthetic radar (SAR) data using a unique ground-penetrating frequency.

Under founder Lauren Guy’s management, ASTERRA launched its CTO office (which Guy now helms) at the beginning of 2022, aiming to expand the technology’s uses to additional verticals and find other natural resources under the ground – the company decided to focus its efforts on lithium first, given its increasing demand and currently insufficient supply.

 ASTERRA founder and CTO Lauren Guy (credit: ASTERRA) ASTERRA founder and CTO Lauren Guy (credit: ASTERRA)

Part of the increased interest in lithium comes as a result of national programs from China, the US and the European Union to promote the sale of electric vehicles, as they are significantly less polluting than their internal combustion counterparts.

On that note, more available lithium could have a positive impact on the price of electric vehicles offered on the market, as lithium plays such a critical role in their composition.

Lithium demand on the rise, supply crisis 'significant'

Guy elaborated on the value offered by lithium in the current market. “The global demand for lithium is insatiable, the supply crisis is present and significant, and the estimates are that it will increase much more in the next 10-20 years. We at ASTERRA… feel that this is just the beginning, and believe that with this technology, we can all better understand humanity’s signature on the planet.”

Elly Peretz, ASTERRA’s CEO added that an increase in lithium mining could fuel the switch to electric vehicles and away from more polluting vehicles (though it is worth mentioning that lithium-ion batteries carry a host of potential environment-harming attributes).

“This is another proof that Israeli initiative and knowledge are at the forefront of the fight against the climate crisis,” Peretz said. “Congratulations to the staff and management for this significant scientific discovery. I am proud to lead a company that stands at the forefront of the uncompromising fight for a better future for us, our children and future generations.”