Electric Cars are likely to take over within a few years, thus increasing the need for a lot of lithium batteries. However, it could be a problem when you are trying to extract lithium from the conventional mines. What if you could get it from the seawater, turning the ocean into an eco-friendly mine.
We all know the ocean’s water is a great source of useful minerals, but it’s quite difficult to extract the specific ones we need. Now, researchers from Australia and the US have discovered an efficient way to separate lithium and produce drinkable water.
The key to this desalination process is metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a sponge-like structure with very high surface areas. Along with sub-nanometer pores, it catches lithium ions while purifying water. It mimics the filtering functions, known as ‘ion selectivity,’ of organic cell membranes to selectively dehydrate and carry ions, leaving the lithium behind while producing drinkable water.
The concept isn’t new, but this new method is much more efficient and environment-friendly. Instead of digging up the landscape to find mineral deposits, all you need to do is just deploy sufficient filters. Besides, it can be done with using harmful chemicals. You can even use this process to filter water when pollution does take place.
“We can use our findings to address the challenges of water desalination,” says Huanting Wang, an author of the new study. “Instead of relying on the current costly and energy intensive processes, this research opens up the potential for removing salt ions from water in a far more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable way.”
Although its implications are clear, the process requires more study before it’s ready for real-world application. Once it’s ready, the world will get enough lithium for eco-friendly electric vehicles, phones, and other devices that run on battery.