Sustainable Lithium Mining and Recycling using Membrane Technology

With continual technological advancements in mobile devices and electric cars, the global demand for lithium has quickly outpaced the rate at which it can be mined or recycled. Lithium is a key element for lithium ion batteries and many other applications. The energy-efficient, environment-friendly technology for separation and purification of lithium has long been pursued to achieve sustainable lithium mining and recycling.

Traditional methods have suffered from any known issues, such as complexities in the design process, low Li recovery, or impurity content control. Membrane technologies such as nanofiltration (and reverse osmosis) and electrodialysis have attracted increasing attention because lithium separation through these processes is achieved by applying either hydraulic pressure or low electrical potential, and it would be potentially cost effective and environmentally friendly.

This PhD project focuses on the development of suitable membrane materials (typically on ceramics and Metal-Organic Frameworks) and processes for lithium separation.

To start the above-mentioned tasks, the state-of-the-art processes for lithium mining and recycling and all available technologies that are used in different separation and recovery processes will be reviewed and investigated. By further comparing different methods, existing challenges will be identified and suggestions for designing separation materials and for improving the recycling effectiveness will be proposed. Based on that, new materials and membrane structures will be designed, characterized/optimized, and ultimately applied for lithium separation. Their separation performance and mechanisms will be investigated systematically and elucidated in details, with the goal of developing predictive models for future membrane materials development. This project will heavily rely on experiments as well as active interdisciplinary collaborations.

The candidate will have chance to work closely with UK-based/international industrial partners, to present latest data in national/international conferences, and, therefore, to delivery new insights to the existing membrane society.

Closing Date: 

Monday, November 11, 2019
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Principal Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent), possibly supported by an MSc Degree, in one or more of the following areas:

  • Engineering (e.g., chemical, materials, civil); science (e.g., chemistry, materials, physics).
  • Experimental/laboratory experience
  • Ability to work independently and in groups comprising people from diverse backgrounds.
  • A high motivation to learn and work across traditional discipline boundaries.

Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere.

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: