Archive for February, 2021



As a reviewer, I review manuscripts (MS) for 31 top journals like J. Geophysical Research, Desalination, Energy, Allied Geophysics, Renewable and Sustainable and Energy Reviews, Applied Geochemistry, Geothermics, Applied Geochemistry; Geochemical Exploration;  Environmental Earth Sciences;  Arabian Journal of Geosciences;  Water Quality Research;  Process safety and Environmental protection;  Environmental Geochemistry and Health;  Journal of Hydrology; Management of Environmental quality;  Geofluids;  Water Resources Management;  Journal of African Earth Sciences;  Advances in Artificial Intelligence;  Applied Geophysics; Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology Paleoecology;  Geothermal Energy;  Current Science; Marine Georesources and Geotechnology;  Desalination;  Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews;  Hydrogeological Processes;  The Geological Society of India;  Physics and Chemistry of the Earth;  Water Air and Soil Pollution;  Geomechanics and geophysics for Geo-energy and Georesources;  Geophysical Research Letters and Colloid and Interface Sci.

Reviewers and Editor and Editorial Board contribute immensely for maintaining the scientific standard of Science and Engineering papers unlike the Predatory Journals (read ). In the year 2020, I reviewed 41 MS. Science (including Engineering) papers published in top journals carry a wealth of information, cutting across countries, religion, caste, and creed. No barriers to the flow of science. Because of this cross-pollination of scientific ideas man can discover new vaccines, resolve DNA codes, send satellites to space and send communications to any part of the universe, and many more.  The sacrifice made by the reviewers and the editors and the editorial board is immense……no measure to measure their contribution for the up-keep of humanity. A reviewer spends a considerable amount of time reviewing an MS…… its authenticity, background check on the authors’ publications, scientific content based on a thorough review of the literature.  Thus a reviewer while reviewing an MS has to go through a volume of literature to check the validity of the MS. A reviewer is final authority for an MS to be published. To reject a MS or to accept a MS is in the hands of a reviewer. So the responsibility of a reviewer is enormous. Patents are filed based on scientific investigation, new inventions are made based on publications. Take for example the current “Facebook” and “Whatsapp” (forgetting about the other controversial news items about these platforms which are being debated now ) and similar Apps did not fall from the sky like a shooting star!! They emerged based on science, based on an exchange of ideas, based on communication in print media, etc. True with Google. The authors spend an extensive amount of time and energy in writing a paper……..thinking about a problem, designing an experiment, conducting an experiment, checking the results, presenting the results with collaborators or colleagues or in conferences before making it into a scientific publication. Even the agencies funding the research do not ask for anything but a report from the authors or the investigator.

Such is the growth of science and scientists in the world.  These people do not get a single penny for the work except for their promotion which is their breadwinner.  These authors sacrifice by transferring copy-rights to the publishers too.

Now, who are the beneficiaries……all the publishing houses….Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, and all other such publishing houses?  They enjoy the benefits of the poor teacher, suck their blood and drop them like a hot potato.  Like “throwing crumbs  of bread to the barking dogs to salience them”, reviewers are given free access to any published papers through Science Direct for a month. Earlier when a author publishes a paper in a journal, he used to get a complimentary copy of the journal. This is slowly replaced by a free pdf copy of the paper. And now that is also gone. Only one link to the authors that he can share and people can read it online. Even the authors have to buy their publication once it is published. What a downfall to the scientific community.  These publishing companies virtually squeezed the scientific community who has no voice to express or represent.

Imagine if all the reviewers refuse to review the MS, where the world will be today?? Mankind would have been perished by now. In fact, when I was in my earlier reviewer career, I rebelled, wrote to the editor on why I should give my time free. Then I realized that this is for the benefit of humanity and I should not expect remuneration for the sacrifice I do. I silently fell online and started accepting MS for review from Editors.

Now there is one bright star that rose among the scientific world and scientific community in the name of Alexandra Elbakyan to fight for the cause of this silent sacrificing community. No arguments, no requests no email. She simply devised a method to download any scientific papers that are published free of cost. The publishing giants could not digest her service to science. She shook the publishing houses. They lost the war and ran behind the courts like cowards. Instead of running to the courts, these scrupulous “houses” should have found a way to come over this problem. The publishing houses make a fortune at the expense of the scientists. They out-source the work to developing countries and further make money from cheap labour. Disgusting attitude.  The courts should thrash their petition…..even the lawyers once, I am sure must be a victim to this cruelty of publishing houses. The courts should allow Sci-hub in all the countries. The publishing houses should be asked to pay a royalty to the authors for the work published in their journal. Time has changed and I am sure several Alexandra Elbakyan will  rise from the ground in support of the science and scientific community. Alexandra Elbakyan herself faced a tough situation while doing her graduation. She is a IT graduate specialized in info-security. She worked on brain-machine interface and developed a system that can use brainwaves as password. What a wonderful technology!! She found it difficult to get published literature related to her field due to inaccessibility of papers published in journals. Her frustration led her to develop software that can help researchers to download whatever scientific literature researchers need freely. This is how Sc-Hub emerged

While giving an interview to Alexandra said “Today, most scientists view the academic publishing system as fundamentally unjust and exploitative. The problem is that publishers are not actual creators of these works, scientists are – they do all the work, and academic publishers simply use their position of power in the Republic of Science to extract unjust profits. Sci-Hub does not enable piracy where creative people are deprived of the reward they deserve. It is a very different thing”.  She is right. She continues “ What does one mean by the word ʻpiracyʼ? Only after several years was I able to comprehend how some people use this word in a bad sense. Most scientists do not care about the legal status at all. They want to do science, and they need to access academic literature to do it, and these legal things — they are in a different reality that scholars do not belong to at all, another planet or a different universe……Researchers do the actual work: they invent the hypothesis, do the experiments and write the articles describing the results of these experiments. Then they publish this article in an academic journal. They cannot simply put this article online on their blog: to be recognized as research work, it must be published in a respectable peer-reviewed journal. So they send their articles to publishers like Elsevier, Wiley, or Springer…… Publishers send articles they have received to other scientists for peer-review. Reviewers give their opinion on whether the work should be accepted in a journal or not, or if some additional work must be done. Based on these reviews, the article is published or rejected”

“Because most academic works and the most popular works in Sci-Hubʼs database are from these publishers, and Elsevier is the leading one in numbers. These companies form an oligopoly that currently controls all academic communication. These publishers alone perhaps control the majority of science. They are key players.  The Sci-Hubʼs view is that science should not be controlled by a few big companies but it should be a dynamic network of learned societies.” says Alexandra Elbakyan. She is right… is science for the benefit of people.


Who will Power the world

“Batteries recently scored a win at General Motors Co., which said it hoped to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its showrooms worldwide by 2035,” wrote Russell Gold and Ben Foldy in The Wall Street Journal on 5th February 2021 (The Battery is Ready to Power the World). “While mining materials and manufacturing batteries produce some greenhouse gas emissions, analysts believe shifting to batteries in the auto and energy sectors would reduce emissions overall, boosting efforts to tackle climate change” comment the authors. That shows their poor knowledge about the extraction process of Li to manufacture Li batteries. I don’t blame them. That is their depth of knowledge.  This world cannot live with-out coal or oil (Can the world survive without coal, Times of Israel Blogs, Sep. 9, 2020). To bring Li ore to a battery stage we need oil/gas/coal. The journalist shouldn’t discuss emissions and they should confine their discussions on energy sources. Emissions will remain-whether the world switches to EVs or fossil fuels-based vehicles. Emissions from solar PV or Li-batteries life cycle are similar to emissions from fossil fuels based power plants (Chandrasekharam, D. and Ranjith Pathegama, G. 2020. CO2 emissions from renewables: Solar PV, hydrothermal and EGS sources. J. Geomecha. Geophys. Geoenergy Georesour.

After solar PV cells, Lithium (Li) is in the limelight. Li batteries are extensively used in almost all electronic devices to store energy. Now they are on the news front in support of Electrical Vehicles (EVs). Whether it is a solar PV cell or a Li battery, the raw material comes from rocks and minerals. While quartz is the raw material for solar PV cells, pegmatites and brines are the raw materials for Li. Both the raw materials have to undergo an extensive, energy-intensive process to arrive at the end product. I have already discussed the life cycle of solar PV cells and associated emissions.  Similar is the case with the manufacturing of Li-battery. The emissions and energy consumed are more or less similar in both cases. Many pundits are ignorant of these facts and believe that both solar PV cell and Li battery occur in nature “like an apple in a tree” that can be plucked and used!!.  So it is better to name solar PV cells and Li batteries as energy sources and not as “green” and “environmentally friendly” energy sources, unlike geothermal energy sources. It is a misnomer. Lithium occurs as LiAl2O6 (Spodumene) and LiAlSi4O10 (Petalite) in nature as minerals. Li has to be extracted from these minerals by metallurgical and electrochemical processes (first converting into Li-Carbonate)   to manufacture Li-batteries. These minerals occur in granitic pegmatites that are distributed over wide geographic locations/regions of the world.  The most important Li reserves are shown below. The Li reserves in Chile, China (Qinghai–Tibet) and  Argentina are located in “salars” (sabkhas/playas/salt pans) brines while others Li reserves are in pegmatites.

ReservesMetric tons

Next to pegmatites, brines are the most promising hosts for Li. They are called “salars” distributed over wide geographic locations. The largest salars are found in South America, occupying an area of 400 000 km2 falling within the territories of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. These salars deposits extend to greater depths and surface and shallow bore-hole based estimates reveal that the Li reserves in the salars vary from 6.3 to 100 Mt. Li bearing brines are also located in Qinghai–Tibet plateau. The Qaidam Basin (Qinghai–Tibet ) contains Li-rich lakes and sediments and the estimated Li resources are about 3.3 Mt. There is a possibility of locating Li-rich sediments in the great Himalayan lakes, like the Pangong Tso. Solar ponds are in use to concentrate Li in the brines before extraction.  To manufacture Li-batteries, Li has to be extracted from the ore/minerals/brines and converted to Li-carbonate. Li-Carbonate is used to manufacture Li-batteries after extracting Li. Approximately to extract 1 ton of  Li metals nearly 5 to 6 tons of Li-Carbonate is required.

According to USGS, world production of lithium ore in 2017 is: Australia: 18 7000 tons; Chile: 14100; Argentina 5500; China 3000; Zimbabwe: 1000; Portugal: 400; Brazil 200.  Although China has a large reserve of lithium ore, it is not producing much. It may use it after the world production shows a decline.

Although China is not a leader in Li deposits, it is capturing countries rich in Li reserves. China (Tianqi- Chinese mining giant) has virtually captured SQM company (Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A ) that is producing Li in Chile (Puna Plateau in Atacama) and Tianqi has a 51% stake in Australia’s Greenbushes lithium mines. Today the world is looking at salars in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. But salars are developing in the present-day geological period also. Take, for example, the entire coastal track of Gulf countries. The sabkhas contain 0.31 ppm of Li, according to a USGS report. The sediments of the Tethyan Sea host several (Neo-Tethyan) economic deposits including Li, like those located in Tunisia. Thus, the Himalayan region, the loci of Tethyan deposits should contain Li-borate deposits.  While the gulf countries being rich oil-bearing countries, in the future they may too become the richest countries in Li resources. So the energy cycle centers around oil-rich countries.

Although “The Battery is Ready to Power the World”  as reported by the  Wall Street Journal, it is too early to predict what is in the future in  2035. To replace oil and coal, these reserves should show a decline. Until then all other energy sources will be on the shelves to be used at the appropriate time. Debates related to emissions reductions using green energy sources like solar PV and Li batteries by IPCCC and CoP will continue. These debates are not focused on energy sources. They have larger game plans and mandate, focused on the economic development of developing economies. One has to be smart like China, which has foreseen the future and bought the future energy companies around the world. Unless Australia and SQM redraft their business MoUs, China will rule the world and not the Battery. But the question is will the world Li reserves support the ambition plans of supporting expansion of Evs  like petrol/diesel supported vehicles. When the reserves decline the cost should escalate due to rise in demand and production cost. 

The cost of lithium carbonate was US$ 12000 a ton in 2019. This cost will not decrease in future and if that is so, how EVs can be sold cheap? Like solar PV, governments have to support cost reduction  by giving subsidy. It is predicted that during the next decade Li will rule the world (like coal and oil/gas).  Besides EVs, Li is required for storing energy from solar pv.  Looking at the reserves and demand of  Li  per battery, supply deficit will start from 2023.  Bloomberg predicts that by 2040, 57% EVs sales will be reached. All are predictions. But the truth will be revealed in a decade. The average capacity of Li battery is  65 kWh/vehicle. A minimum of 10 kg of Li is required per battery (each battery contains about 5000 cells). Say for about 100,000 such batteries  1 million Kg of Li is required. The average life of the battery is 2 to 3 years. Considering the available Li reserves and projected EVs numbers in the next decade, I am not sure whether these projections have any meaning.