Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory shed new light on elusive chemical processes at the liquid-liquid interface during solvent extraction of cobalt, shown in dark blue. Credit: Michelle Lehman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy Real-time measurements captured by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory provide missing insight into chemical separations to recover cobalt, a critical raw material used to make batteries and magnets for modern technologies.
Results published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, track the dynamics of molecules designed to grab cobalt from solutions containing a mixture of similar species.
“Understanding the molecular events that make it possible to separate elements is key to optimizing or creating new, tailored approaches for broad areas of materials recovery,” said Ben Doughty of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division.
The study investigates the fundamental chemistry underlying solvent extraction , a method of separating elements using two liquids that do not dissolve into one another, namely oil and water.
When agitated, oil-and-water solutions will self-separate into distinct layers. The phenomenon can be used to transfer targeted materials dissolved in one liquid phase to another, allowing specific elements like cobalt to be separated from everything else in the mix.
“The catch is that you need to have […]
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