Powering the future with revolutionary lithium extraction technique

March 09, 2020

An international research team has pioneered and patented a new filtration technique that could one day slash lithium extraction times and change the way the future is powered.

The world-first study, published today in the prestigious international journal Nature Materials, presents findings that demonstrate the way in which Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) channels can mimic the filtering function, or 'ion selectivity', of biological ion channels embedded within a cell membrane.

Inspired by the precise filtering capabilities of a living cell, the research team has developed a synthetic MOF-based ion channel membrane that is precisely tuned, in both size and chemistry, to filter lithium ions in an ultra-fast, one-directional and highly selective manner.

This discovery, developed by researchers at Monash University, CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Texas at Austin, opens up the possibility to create a revolutionary filtering technology that could substantially change the way in which lithium-from-brine extraction is undertaken.

This technology received a worldwide patent in 2019. Energy Exploration Technologies, Inc. (EnergyX) has since executed a worldwide exclusive licence to commercialise the technology.

"Based on this new research, we could one day have the capability to produce simple filters that will take hours to extract lithium from brine, rather than several months to years," said Professor Huanting Wang, co-lead research author and Professor of Chemical Engineering at Monash University.

"Preliminary studies have shown that this technology has a lithium recovery rate of approximately 90 percent - a substantial improvement on 30 percent recovery rate achieved through the current solar evaporation process."

Professor Benny Freeman from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, said: "Thanks to the international, interdisciplinary and collaborative team involved in this research, we are discovering new routes to very selective separation membranes.

"We are both enthusiastic and hopeful that the strategy outlined in this paper will provide a clear roadmap for resource recovery and low energy water purification of many different molecular species."

Associate Professor (Jefferson) Zhe Liu from The University of Melbourne said: "The working mechanism of the new MOF-based filtration membrane is particularly interesting, and is a delicate competition between ion partial dehydration and ion affinitive interaction with the functional groups distributed along the MOF nanochannels.

"There is significant potential of designing our MOF-based membrane systems for different types of filtration applications, including for use in lithium-from-brine extraction."

CSIRO and Monash University Associate Professor Matthew Hill said: "We're pleased that our international research collaboration has made a breakthrough that could improve the supply of lithium. This is important for enabling electric vehicles and grid integration of renewable energy sources."

"It's truly an honour to work with such brilliant scientists at all these organisations," said Teague Egan, Founder and CEO of EnergyX.

"This breakthrough invention will literally change the way lithium is produced and how we power our future."

Lithium-from-brine extraction is most common in the Lithium Triangle - a region of the Andes bordering Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, which holds roughly half of the world's lithium reserves - and some sites across the USA.

With the majority of Australia's lithium produced from the mineral spodumene, the new technique could spur on the investigation of Australia's salt lakes for potential lithium production options.
-end-
To download a full copy of the research, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-020-0634-7

This study was led by Professor Huanting Wang, Dr. Huacheng Zhang and Professor Xiwang Zhang from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University, in collaboration with Dr. Anita Hill of CSIRO; Associate Professor Matthew Hill of CSIRO and Monash University; Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin; and Associate Professor (Jefferson) Zhe Liu of The University of Melbourne.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Monash University
T: +61 3 9903 4840 E: media@monash.edu

Monash University

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.