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Understanding the Electrochemical Extraction of Lithium from Ultradilute Solutions

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posted on 2024-02-17, 14:13 authored by Kaige Sun, Mike Tebyetekerwa, Xiangkang Zeng, Zhuyuan Wang, Timothy T. Duignan, Xiwang Zhang
The electrochemical extraction of lithium (Li) from aqueous sources using electrochemical means is a promising direct Li extraction technology. However, to this date, most electrochemical Li extraction studies are confined to Li-rich brine, neglecting the practical and existing Li-lean resources, with their overall extraction behaviors currently not fully understood. More still, the effect of elevated sodium (Na) concentrations typically found in most Li-lean water sources on Li extraction is unclear. Hence, in this work, we first understand the electrochemical Li extraction behaviors from ultradilute solutions using spinel lithium manganese oxide as the model electrode. We discovered that Li extraction depends highly on the Li concentration and cell operation current density. Then, we switched our focus on low Li to Na ratio solutions, revealing that Na can dominate the electrostatic screening layer, reducing Li ion concentration. Based on these understandings, we rationally employed pulsed electrochemical operation to restructure the electrode surface and distribute the surface-adsorbed species, which efficiently achieves a high Li selectivity even in extremely low initial Li/Na concentrations of up to 1:20,000.

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