Investigation of solution chemistry to enable efficient lithium recovery from low-concentration lithium-containing wastewater

Chunlong Zhao, Mingming He, Hongbin Cao, Xiaohong Zheng, Wenfang Gao, Yong Sun, He Zhao, Dalong Liu, Yanling Zhang, Zhi Sun

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In the production of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) and recycling of spent LIBs, a large amount of low-concentration lithium-containing wastewater (LCW) is generated. The recovery of Li from this medium has attracted significant global attention from both the environmental and economic perspectives. To achieve effective Li recycling, the features of impurity removal and the interactions among different ions must be understood. However, it is generally difficult to ensure highly efficient removal of impurity ions while retaining Li in the solution for further recovery. In this study, the removal of typical impurity ions from LCW and the interactions between these species were systematically investigated from the thermodynamic and kinetics aspects. It was found that the main impurities (e.g., Fe3+, Al3+, Ca2+, and Mg2+) could be efficiently removed with high Li recovery by controlling the ionic strength of the solution. The mechanisms of Fe3+, Al3+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ removal were investigated to identify the controlling steps and reaction kinetics. It was found that the precipitates are formed by a zero-order reaction, and the activation energies tend to be low with a sequence of fast chemical reactions that reach equilibrium very quickly. Moreover, this study focused on Li loss during removal of the impurities, and the corresponding removal rates of Fe3+, Al3+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ were found to be 99.8%, 99.5%, 99%, and 99.7%, respectively. Consequently, high-purity Li3PO4 was obtained via one-step precipitation. Thus, this research demonstrates a potential route for the effective recovery of Li from low-concentration LCW and for the appropriate treatment of acidic LCW. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-650
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • impurity ion
  • lithium phosphate
  • lithium-containing wastewater
  • precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (all)


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