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Comment Separation Processes

MOFs and nanochannels enable lithium extraction from brines

By Scott Jenkins |

Lithium is a key raw material for batteries that power electric vehicles, portable electronics and more, but traditional methods for obtaining it are plagued by poor lithium recovery (a large portion of Li is lost in the recovery process), slow speed (thermal evaporation of large brine ponds takes months) and poor selectivity (co-precipitation of magnesium makes isolation difficult). Now, development is progressing on a technology that uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) embedded inside nanoscale channels in a polymer membrane to selectively separate lithium ions from salt brines. The method is envisioned as a more environmentally friendly lithium-harvesting alternative to conventional methods, such as mining lithium-containing ores and evaporating brine ponds under the sun. Described in a recent paper in Nature Materials, the technique was pioneered by a collaborative team from the University of Texas (Austin), Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) and others, and is licensed for commercialization by Energy Exploration Technologies (EnergyX; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; www.energyX.com). EnergyX is developing a system, known as LiTAS, for separating Li from brine that scales up the membrane technique demonstrated by the research…
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