Lithium ion-selective membrane with 2D subnanometer channels

Amir Razmjou*, Ghazaleh Eshaghi, Yasin Orooji, Ehsan Hosseini, Asghar Habibnejad Korayem, Fereshteh Mohagheghian, Yasaman Boroumand, Abdollah Noorbakhsh, Mohsen Asadnia, Vicki Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


In the last two years, the rapidly rising demand for lithium has exceeded supply, resulting in a sharp increase in the price of the metal. Conventional electric driven membrane processes can separate Li+ from divalent cations, but there is virtually no commercial membrane that can efficiently and selectively extract Li+ from a solution containing chemically similar ions such as Na+ and K+ . Here, we show that the different movement behavior of Li+ ion within the sub-nanometre channel leads to Li+ ion-selectivity and high transport rate. Using inexpensive negatively charged 2D subnanometer hydrous phyllosilicate channels with interlayer space of 0.43 nm in a membrane-like morphology, we observed that for an interlayer spacing of below 1 nm, Li+ ions move along the length of the channel by jumping between its two walls. However, for above 1 nm spacing, the ions used only one channel wall to jump and travel. Molecular dynamic (MD) simulation also revealed that ions within the nanochannel exhibit acceleration-deceleration behavior. Experimental results showed that the nanochannels could selectively transport monovalent ions of Li+> Na+> and K+ while excluding other ions such as Cl and Ca2+ , with the selectivity ratios of 1.26, 1.59 and 1.36 for Li+/Na+ , Li+/K+, and Na+/K+ respectively, which far exceed the mobility ratios in traditional porous ion exchange membranes. The findings of this work provide researchers with not only a new understanding of ions movement behavior within subnanometer confined areas but also make a platform for the future design of ion-selective membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Subnanometer channels
  • Li ion selective membrane
  • Two-dimensional materials
  • Lithium extraction
  • Vermiculite


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