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Oak Ridge National Laboratory Researchers Find Ambiguous Liquid-Liquid Interface Separation Chemistry

August 06, 2020 / Ashley Huff

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.