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US scientists develop magnetic nanoparticles that can "absorb" lithium metal from wastewater

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Author : Jazmyn
Update time : 2024-04-07 09:16:01

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US scientists develop magnetic nanoparticles that can "absorb" lithium metal from wastewater

Sorcerers attempted to transform lead into gold centuries ago. Although they were not successful, the idea of extracting valuable resources from abundant sources continued to be attractive.
 
According to reports, scientists at the United States Division of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Research Laboratory (PNNL) are presently working with the market to check a method of using magnetic nanoparticles to extract crucial products such as lithium from numerous water resources.

 

Lithium is an essential component of numerous electronic devices and power innovations, including the lightweight lithium-ion batteries that power everything from cell phones to electric cars. The global lithium market is expected to reach US$8.2 billion by 2028.
 
It is reported that this technology, which PNNL is applying for patents, may not only give the United States the opportunity to produce more lithium and other key materials on its own but also provide a faster and cheaper method. PNNL is developing magnetic nanoparticles surrounded by an adsorbent shell that can adsorb lithium and other metals from various industrial wastewater.
 
These sources may include water from geothermal power plants, known as geothermal brine, or water pumped from the ground during oil or gas production. The particles can also be used in desalination plant wastewater or even directly in seawater treatment.

 

It is understood that as soon as these small iron-based particles are contributed to the water, the lithium is pulled out of the water and incorporated with it. Then, with the help of magnets, the nanoparticles can collect the lithium in just a few minutes, no longer suspended in the liquid, making it easier to extract. After the lithium is extracted, the charged nanoparticles can be used again.
 
This technology provides a promising alternative to traditional extraction methods, such as lithium extraction in evaporation ponds. These processes can take months or even years and impact groundwater management in those arid regions. The process developed by PNNL is a bit like waiting for the water to evaporate from a jar of lemonade in hopes of recovering the powdery mixture that settles at the bottom.
 
The value of the recovered lithium could increase the cost-effectiveness of this renewable energy source if the technology is used in geothermal power plants. These plants use water to capture heat deep beneath the Earth's surface and then convert it into electricity.
 
PNNL is working with Moselle Technologies to further develop the technology. Moselle Technologies has licensed it and plans to pilot it in several locations. They are also conducting long-term testing of magnetic separator systems for use in oil and gas extraction processes, which could create additional revenue streams to offset production costs.

 

In addition, PNNL is working with other commercial partners to evaluate the application of this technology to lithium resources in Nevada and Canada.
 
Finally, PNNL researchers are also eyeing another set of applications. They are customizing the shells of nanoparticles to specifically target other commercially valuable, strategically important elements and minerals used in energy technology, medical imaging equipment, electronics, and more substances.

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