Emerging technology could help extract lithium from new sources

Assistant Professor Chong Liu (right) and her team use specialized electrode materials and membranes to pull lithium ions from salt brines without the need for harsh chemicals. Credit: John Zich

As more drivers adopt plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, the demand for lithium-ion batteries will continue to explode over the next decade. But processes for extracting lithium can be time-consuming and chemical-intensive, and traditional sources—including brine and hard rock—could ultimately be depleted.

Scientists and engineers are now looking to unconventional water sources, including oil- and gas-produced water, geothermal brines, and rejected brines from seawater desalination. But how much …

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