Advanced Mineral Separations with Novel Simulated Moving Beds

Research output: NRELPoster


Lithium is a critical mineral that is widely used in batteries and energy storage applications, making it increasingly important in the next few decades. To meet the growing demand for lithium and secure domestic supply chains, there is a need to exploit unconventional lithium resources. However, utilizing current lithium extraction processes is challenging due to the high salinity in those resources. Thus, it is essential to develop energy-efficient, and less chemical-intensive separation processes that can exploit high-salinity lithium resources. Accordingly, this project aims to design a novel zwitterionic stationary phase and use it to develop a continuous chromatography process to recover LiCl minerals from traditionally unexploited domestic saline resources. The developed zwitterionic stationary phase allows fractionating minerals based on their different sorbent affinities under water elution. A systematically designed continuous process can separate lithium from other minerals, reducing the risk of material fouling and the overall chemical consumption to produce battery-grade lithium. This approach is expected to significantly enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the lithium extraction process while also reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional processes. At the end of the project, the technology will be demonstrated in continuous mode using a simulated moving bed (SMB) to recover >100 g of LiCl from real resource waters. The U.S.-based resources that this project targets for LiCl recovery are formation water, oil-produced water, and geothermal brines, supplied by Standard Lithium Ltd. and Shell Inc, respectively.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Technologies Office (AMMTO) and Industrial Efficiency & Decarbonization Office (IEDO) Peer Review, 16-18 May 2023, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-2800-86207


  • critical minerals
  • lithium recovery
  • separation
  • simulated moving beds


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