PhotoniX, Volume. 4, Issue 1, 23(2023)

Green lithium: photoelectrochemical extraction

Zhongxiao Li1、†, Zhen Li2、†, Hao Huang2,3、†, Yunduo Yao4, Bilawal Khan1, Ye Zhu4, Kuo-Wei Huang2,3,5、*, Zhiping Lai2、**, and Jr-Hau He1、***
Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Hong Kong SAR 999077, China
  • 2Division of Physical Science and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia
  • 3KAUST Catalysis Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia
  • 4Department of Applied Physics, Research Institute for Smart Energy, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR 999077, China
  • 5Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering and Institute of Sustainability for Chemicals, Energy and Environment, Singapore 138634, Singapore
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    Lithium (Li) is an essential element in modern energy production and storage devices. Technology to extract Li from seawater, which contains ~ 230 billion tons of Li, offers a solution to the widespread concern regarding quantitative and geographical limitations of future Li supplies. To obtain green Li from seawater, we propose an unassisted photoelectrochemical (PEC) Li extraction system based on an III-V-based triple-junction (3J) photoelectrode and a Li-ion selective membrane with only sunlight as an input. A light-harvesting/catalysis decoupling scheme yielded a 3J photoelectrode with excellent light-harvesting and catalysis reaction capabilities and superb stability over the 840 h of the extraction process. It allows the system to successfully enrich seawater Li by 4,350 times (i.e., from 0.18 ppm to 783.56 ppm) after three extraction stages. The overall reaction of the unassisted PEC green Li extraction system achieved 2.08 mg kJ-1 of solar-to-Li efficiency and 3.65% of solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) lithium extraction device is designed to explore lithium from seawater for the first time. The PEC cell with a triple-junction (InGaP/GaAs/Ge) photoelectrode and light-harvesting/catalysis decoupling scheme is constructed, offering a suitable operating potential and superb stability to the membrane-based extraction process in the seawater. The device can successfully enrich lithium by 4,350 times (from 0.18 to 783.56 ppm).


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    Zhongxiao Li, Zhen Li, Hao Huang, Yunduo Yao, Bilawal Khan, Ye Zhu, Kuo-Wei Huang, Zhiping Lai, Jr-Hau He. Green lithium: photoelectrochemical extraction[J]. PhotoniX, 2023, 4(1): 23

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    Paper Information

    Category: Research Articles

    Received: Jan. 10, 2023

    Accepted: Jun. 19, 2023

    Published Online: Jul. 17, 2023

    The Author Email: Huang Kuo-Wei (, Lai Zhiping (, He Jr-Hau (