Polymeric and inorganic sorbents as a green option to recover critical raw materials at trace levels from sea saltwork bitterns

V. Vallès (Corresponding Author), J. López, M. Fernández de Labastida, O. Gibert, Anumaija Leskinen, R. T. Koivula, J. L. Cortina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Seawater mining is certainly a green alternative source for obtaining minerals as seawater is a natural renewable and unlimited available resource. Based on the lack of ways to obtain certain raw materials, the European Union has created the Critical Raw Materials (CRM) list. Seawater contains almost all elements, including some of those present in the CRM list, but only a few are economically feasible to be extracted as most of them are considered Trace Elements (TEs) (μg L−1). Therefore, an improvement in TEs extraction must be carried out. Saltwork brines can be considered as they are naturally concentrated (20-40 times) compared to seawater, which makes the extraction and recovery of TEs easier. Selective polymeric and inorganic sorbents were evaluated for TEs recovery (Li, B, Co, Ga, Ge, Rb, Sr, and Cs) from synthetic brines mimicking sea saltwork bitterns. Distribution coefficients were determined to characterize selectivity patterns toward TEs. Although amine and sulphonic sorbents showed low sorption of TEs, carboxylic sorbents presented good sorption and recovery for Co and Ga. Among phosphonic/phosphinic sorbents, MTX8010 achieved >98% sorption and desorption of Ga. Aminophosphonic and iminodiacetic are the best sorbents for Sr, but its desorption was incomplete. B was only sorbed by N-Methylglucamine (>98%) and N-Methylpyridine sorbents (75%), and its desorption was 37-64% and 66−>99%, respectively. SbTreat presented good performance targeting Ga and Ge, and CsTreat demonstrated high Cs uptake, but its desorption was unachieved. The most highly selective sorbents could provide the possibility of building a green option to recover critical elements for societal development in the next decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-719
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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