UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest

This is about the Institute of Chemistry, Material Physics, Environment and Energy, which turned out to be selected in a contest on alternative energy.

UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest

UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest

In a ceremony carried out in Amsterdam, the Dutch Company DSM announced the results of the Bright Minds Challenge international contest. Among the three shortlisted projects, there was that of Ernesto Calvo, researcher for the Argentine Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) and the School of Exact Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires, and director of the Institute of Chemistry, Materials Physics, Environment and Energy (INQUIMAE, CONICET-UBA).

The winning team included Mr. Calvo, Mrs. Victoria Flexer for the Transfer and Research Center (CIT) of Jujuy, and research fellows Florencia Marchini and Valeria Romero, and it proposed to implement much more efficient innovative technologies for environment-friendly lithium extraction at large scale, compared with those used at present.

About the winning project

South America has 80% of world lithium reserves at the salt-mines of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, in the form of brine (water with high salt concentration levels). “In Catamarca, for instance, 20 -30 thousand tons of lithium are produced each year, which at present are namely used for battery and aerospace alloys purposes”, commented the Chemistry specialist.

Lithium is used in mobile telephone batteries, electric automobiles, pacemaker batteries, and watches batteries, as well as in many other portable electronic devices. Calvo also mentioned that it is used in lithium batteries to store solar power. He then highlighted that, however, there are yet many challenges to face: for instance, in the case of electric car batteries, no improvements have been made in connection with the autonomy offered by fuels of fossil origin, since nowadays a car using the lithium-ion technology used in mobile phones as fuel can reach 160km/h and, in the future, it is expected to reach 250 km/ h.

There are several methods used for lithium extraction. Australia, the largest global producer, does so using the conventional mining method. In Chile and Argentina, which are also included in the ranking of main lithium producers at the international level, together with countries like China, lithium is extracted along a lengthy process of water evaporation from brine, in wells of an area of 200 per 800 meters and 30 centimeters depth.

“Our proposal does not require for evaporation or for water loss. We do not add chemical substances and our method is highly selective; that is, we do not contaminate by using sodium, an element that is an enemy of lithium batteries”, said Calvo. The nanoscience specialist emphasized that his method only uses solar power to carry out the lithium extraction through battery electrodes at a very low power cost, since these use solar power.

Source: CONICET.

National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET)
  • UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest
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UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest

UBA and CONICET Institute wins international contest

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