Okay, hang on to your hats because this one literally blew our minds 🤯
With the current surge in demand for electric vehicles, battery manufacturers will require a lot of lithium. The good news is that the researchers at KAUST found a way to extract it from seawater... for free!
The oceans contain 5,000 times more lithium than the land, but its extremely low concentration has made its extraction unviable until now.
The researchers designed an electrochemical cell containing a membrane that is just wide enough to let lithium ions pass through while blocking larger metal ions. Then, by introducing an electrical current into the solution and repeating the process several times, they can retrieve a lithium solution pure enough to be used in battery manufacturing.The whole process costs only $5 of electricity to extract 1kg of lithium (for reference, a typical car battery contains 10kg of lithium).
That’s not even the best part!
As a byproduct of extracting the lithium, the system also produces hydrogen and chlorine, whose value more than offsets the cost of extraction… making the lithium effectively free.
Not to mention it avoids the drawbacks mining can have, such as impacting biodiversity and local communities.
Is it over yet? Of course not.
The residual seawater can finally be used in desalination plants to provide freshwater 💧