SEArcularMINE

SEArcularMINE (https://searcularmine.eu/) builds on the ancient and still widely used process of saltworks, where seawater goes through natural evaporation and fractionated crystallization in shallow basins. This process produces sea salt and a brine (bittern) free of calcium as a by-product, and which is more concentrated than seawater in some crucial elements such as Magnesium, Lithium and Trace-Elements belonging to the alkaline/alkaline earths metals (e.g., Rb, Cs, Sr) or transition/post-transition metals (e.g., Co, Ga, Ge) group. In case of lithium, its concentration in such brines might be up to 160 times higher than in seawater. Three innovative recovery technologies will be developed and integrated within a circular approach, based on three different processes: 1) reactive crystallisation; 2) selective membrane separation; 3) selective sorption/desorption. There will be fundamental advances in the knowledge of these processes, leading to break-through developments for the recovery of minerals from brines, but also from seawater or any other kind of metals-rich solution. A multi-disciplinary approach will be adopted for bringing the low TRL of the main three technologies and of the overall integrated concept up to TRL 4-5. The overall objective of SEArcularMINE is to develop innovative, sustainable and cost-effective technologies that will contribute to securing European access to Magnesium (Mg), Lithium (Li) and Trace Elements (Rb, Sr, Cs, Ga, Ge, Co), through a circular processing of the abundant bittern resources.

Our work in this H2020 european project focuses on fundamental research on Li-selective membranes and flow-electrodes and development of the Lithium Membrane Flow Capacitive Deionization prototype (Li-MFCDI).