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Scientists develop ‘cheap and easy’ method to extract lithium from seawater


Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology developed what they believe is an economically viable system to extract high-purity lithium from seawater. Previous efforts to tease lithium from the mixture the metal makes together with sodium, magnesium and potassium in seawater yielded very little. Although the liquid contains 5,000 times more lithium than what can be found on land, it is present at extremely low concentrations of about 0.2 parts per million (ppm). Sign Up for the Battery Metals Digest To address this issue, the team led by Zhiping Lai tried a method that had never been used before to extract lithium ions. They employed an electrochemical cell containing a ceramic membrane made from lithium lanthanum titanium oxide (LLTO).

In a paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers explain that the membrane’s crystal structure contains holes just wide enough to let lithium ions pass through while blocking larger metal ions.

The cell itself, on the other hand, contains three compartments. Seawater flows into a central feed chamber, where positive lithium ions pass through the LLTO membrane into a side compartment that contains a buffer solution and a copper cathode coated with platinum and ruthenium. At the same time, negative ions exit the feed chamber through a standard anion exchange membrane, passing into a third compartment containing a sodium chloride solution and a platinum-ruthenium anode.

Lai and his group tested the system using seawater from the Red Sea. At a voltage of 3.25V, the cell generates hydrogen gas at the cathode and chlorine gas at the anode. This drives the transport of lithium through the LLTO membrane, where it accumulates in the side-chamber. This lithium-enriched water then becomes the feedstock for four more cycles of processing, eventually reaching a concentration of more than 9,000 ppm.

To make the final product pure enough so that it meets battery manufacturers’ requirements, the scientists then adjusted the pH of the solution to deliver solid lithium phosphate that contains mere traces of other metal ions.

According to the researchers, the cell will probably need $5 of electricity to extract 1 kilogram of lithium from seawater. This means that the value of hydrogen and chlorine produced by the cell would end up offsetting the cost of power, and residual seawater could also be used in desalination plants to provide freshwater.

8 Comments on "Scientists develop ‘cheap and easy’ method to extract lithium from seawater"

  1. makati1 on Sun, 6th Jun 2021 4:30 pm 

    “Scientists develop ‘cheap and easy’ method to extract lithium from seawater”

    Hahahahahahahaha! LMAO!

    Next they will claim the same for the gold there also.

    BTW: where is all the electric going to come from to power the system or make the filters? Those ‘facts’ are never mentioned in the techie dreams. I wonder why? LOL

  2. makati1 on Sun, 6th Jun 2021 4:39 pm 

    FYI: The oceans contain about $771,000,000,000,000. worth of gold or about 8 times the world’s total GDP in 2020. Many have tried to get it. Not practical, just like the lithium above. Net loss.

    Dream on techies! LOL

  3. Cloggie on Mon, 7th Jun 2021 5:22 am 

    Hahahahahahahaha! LMAO!

    Dream on techies! LOL

    This is the piteously level we have to deal with. Some uneducated punk, who is gloating about the (imagined) demise of civilization.

    “Millions are going to die, beer and popcorn!”


    Makati, who probably didn’t read the article, or if he did (attempted) missed the point. The Chinese scientists, employed by KSA, say they have a method with which they can convert $5 worth of electricity to extract 1 kg of pure lithium, a bargain. As a bonus they get desalinated water.

    In the Saudi desert, they have dirt cheap solar PV electricity in abundance. Match made in heaven.

    Facts, research and makati: pearls for the swines.

  4. DT on Mon, 7th Jun 2021 5:48 am 

    What happens to the left over sea water after this process? Is it dumped back into the ocean? Does this left over water then form a dead zone like so many other places in the world where humans dump there waste?

  5. DT on Mon, 7th Jun 2021 5:52 pm 

    This is for all you techie dreamers of zero carbon by whatever date you choose.

  6. makati1 on Mon, 7th Jun 2021 6:57 pm 

    BTW: Co2 is a heavy gas that hugs the lower atmosphere. The other carbon gases are the high altitude sun blockers. Co2 is necessary for life. But then the dumbed down Amerikans who never learned biology or physics.

    Read carefully for the facts mentioned above.

  7. Duncan Idaho on Fri, 11th Jun 2021 3:53 pm 

    Leader of GOP says he won the respect of Russia at Helsinki summit and trusts Russia more than US intelligence agencies.


    The flag-waving patriots of the GOP must be so very, very proud to support this traitorous moron.

  8. Biden’s hairplug on Fri, 11th Jun 2021 5:00 pm 

    This GOP-guy isn’t the only one who reorients himself towards Europe:

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