Nathan Slaughter

It's one of the most highly sought commodities on the planet. If I'm right, then expect demand to surge during the next couple of years...

And no, I'm not talking about gold, oil or any of the other usual players for that matter.

The commodity I'm thinking of is a key ingredient in everything from pharmaceuticals to rocket fuel. It's a lubricant, a propellant and a nuclear reactor coolant. It's also crucial for fireworks, airplanes, glass cookware and even medicine cabinets.

Generally speaking, it has more uses than duct tape... But that's not why I like it.

I like it because, pound for pound, this featherweight metal can store more electric energy than just about any other material...

I'm talking about lithium, the battery maker's best friend. You probably have some of this metal within arm's reach of you. If you own an iPod or iPad, you definitely do. 

Lithium is the central ingredient used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.

Just within the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) family, lithium batteries are used to power iPads, iPods and iPhones. And the MacBook Pro line of laptops uses advanced lithium-polymer batteries that are ultra-slim and capable of running 10 hours on a single charge.

All told, the global production of handheld lithium batteries rose 27% last year to 3.9 billion units. And this year, the total is expected to climb to 4.5 billion units.

Now, you may be thinking lithium's already seen its hey-day. After all, Apple can only sell so many more iPhones and iPads. The developed world has been exposed to high-tech consumer electronics for a few years now.

But electronic gadgets are just one of the sources of demand for lithium.

Here's what really excites me: The average cell phone contains just one-tenth of an ounce of lithium; the average laptop computer about one ounce. By contrast, a plug-in hybrid car, which runs on gasoline and electricity, will need 20 pounds of lithium materials. That's 320 times more than a laptop and 3,200 times more than a phone.

That's why I call it the oil of the 21st century. Before long it is going to power hundreds of thousands of vehicles across the globe.

Let me explain... 

Nathan Slaughter

Nathan Slaughter is Chief Investment Strategist of Market Advisor, Scarcity & Real Wealth, and Energy & Income at