The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is significant for lithium producers that can selectively extract and recover efficiently high-grade lithium from brine and salt water, resulting in a significant impact on the lithium market. The proposed research will enable understanding of the technology challenges, needs, and improvement in current lithium extraction technologies. The training process will help graduate students to improve their entrepreneurial skills, learn how to work with academia, industrial sectors, customers and the public. The developed technology is expected to find broader commercial applications in environmental, healthcare, and energy sectors. The customer of the proposed innovation is potentially any company that produces brine solution. Oil companies and lithium producers are the key targets for this innovation. The proposed innovation enables a novel technology that would selectively extract lithium from brine solution resulting in high lithium recovery and low-cost production and conversion of lithium to its end products, lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.

This I-Corps project develops a fibrous mat from a novel coordination polymer framework that possesses molecular sieving and selective chemical affinity to lithium, providing fast and efficient lithium extraction and recovery. The global demand for lithium is expected to witness substantial growth owing to its increased demand for energy storage, electronic bikes, electrification of tools, and other battery-intense applications. It is unlikely that traditional lithium extraction operations from hard rock and brine deposits will be able to respond to future lithium markets to meet current demands. Mining lithium from hard rock deposits requires high operating cost regardless of its low technology requirements and short processing time. The current brine operations are also more capital intensive, incur significant lead times to generate high grade lithium production. The proposed innovation is unique due to its high selectivity, rapid extraction ability, and the feasibility to apply into any shape and size brine ponds. The current stage of the project focuses on developing the fibrous mat with tailored porosity and high-density chemical affinity to demonstrate its utility and versatility for selective extraction of lithium ions from salt solutions and seawater.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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