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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize

Seeking solutions that de-risk and increase market viability for direct lithium extraction (DLE) from domestic geothermal brines.

U.S. Department of Energy

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $4,000,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas, Technology demonstration and hardware, Business plans, Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Submission Start: 2021/03/31 5:00 PM ET
Submission End: 09/02/2021 5:00 PM ET


The American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize is designed to increase market viability for direct lithium extraction (DLE) from geothermal brines with innovations that lower costs and lessen environmental impact. Competitors in the prize will participate in three escalating challenges for an opportunity to win a portion of the $4 million cash prize pool.

Key Dates

  • Phase 1: Idea & Concept

    • Phase 1 submission opens: March 31, 2021
    • Phase 1 informational webinar: April 12, 2021
    • Phase 1 submission deadline: September 2, 2021 5 p.m. ET
    • Phase 1 semifinalists announced, and Phase 2 begins: Expected November 31, 2021
  • Phase 2: Design & Invent

    • Phase 2 submission opens: November 2021
    • Phase 2 virtual innovation pitches with Industry Advisory Panel (IAP): Expected January 2022
    • Phase 2 submission deadline: Expected February 2022
    • Phase 2 finalists announced, and Phase 3 begins: Expected March 2022
  • Phase 3: Fabricate & Test

    • Phase 3 submission opens: Expected March 2022
    • Phase 3 submission deadline: Expected March 2023
    • Phase 3 winners announced: Expected March 2023


Total Cash Prize Pool

$4 million cash prize pool

Prize Breakdown

The Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize consists of three progressive phases that challenge competitors to move their innovation from concept to prototype.

  • Phase 1: Idea & Concept (Up to 15): $600,000 total prize pool distributed equally among semifinalists. Competitors will receive a minimum of $40,000 and maximum of $600,000.
  • Phase 2: Design & Invent (Up to 5): $1.4 million total prize pool distributed equally among finalists. Competitors will receive a minimum of $280,000 and maximum of $1.4 million.
  • Phase 3: Fabricate & Test (Up to 3): $2 million in total prize pool distributed for the first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Phase 1: Idea & Concept Phase: Over three months, competitors demonstrate that they have identified and developed an impactful idea or solution that addresses one or more of the following technical challenges:

  • 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.

Competitors will propose a path to design, prototype, and test for proof of concept.

  • Phase 1 participants are evaluated by a panel of experts from industry, national labs, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Up to 15 participants will be selected as winning this phase, called “semifinalists.” They may receive between $40,000 to $600,000 in cash and are then eligible to compete in Phase 2.

Phase 2: Design & Invent: Over three months, competitors work in concert with IAP members to substantially advance their proposed tool, component, chemical process, or other advancement concept by demonstrating their design’s promise in meeting quantitative engineering and operational requirements outlined by the team. Additionally, it is expected that competitors develop a plan to test their innovation using a real geothermal brine during Phase 3.

  • Phase 2 competitors have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the IAP to receive concept design feedback in one-on-one sessions prior to the Phase 2 submission date.
  • Phase 2 competitors are evaluated by a panel of experts from industry, national labs, and DOE. Up to five competitors are selected as winning competitors at this phase, called “finalists.” They receive between $280,000 to $1.4 million in cash and are then eligible to compete in Phase 3.
  • Phase 2 competitors are also required to present to DOE and IAP members during an innovation pitch meeting.

Phase 3: Fabricate & Test: Over 12 months, competitors fabricate and test their proposed design to demonstrate its ability to improve DLE from geothermal brines. Phase 3 competitors are evaluated by a panel of experts using—in part—engineering and technical performance criteria previously submitted by each team. Phase 3 has up to three winners with a first-, second-, and third-place prize.


The Official Rules can be found here.


The U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office invites anyone currently affiliated with a U.S. academic institution, individually or as a team, to compete to transform a conceptual solution into prototype reality. Domestic small businesses and university incubators are also eligible to compete, when partnered with an individual or group currently affiliated with an accredited U.S. institution of higher education. See Prize Rules for more information on eligibility.

Judging Criteria

  • The proposed innovation is responsive to the needs of the geothermal DLE industry.
  • All activities that are described in and support the submission package are performed in the United States.
  • The proposed solution represents an innovation that moves the American lithium and geothermal industries beyond their respective current states.
  • The proposed solution is not dependent on new, pending, or proposed federal, state, or local government legislation, resolutions, appropriations, measures, or policies.
  • The proposed solution does not involve the lobbying of any federal, state, tribal, or local government office.
  • The proposed solution is based on fundamental technical principles and is realistic in scope and budget for the incentives provided in this program.
  • The submission content sufficiently confirms the competitor’s intent to bring a DLE-related advancement to the demonstration stage by the conclusion of the program.

How to Enter

Just click the “Solve this Challenge” button on and follow the instructions to complete your registration.

Submission URL