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Magnesium has emerging sustainability-related applications, including in carbon capture, low-carbon cement, and potential next-generation batteries. These applications are bringing renewed attention to domestic magnesium production. Currently, magnesium is obtained in the United States through an energy-intensive process from salt lake brines, some of which are in danger due to droughts. The Department of Energy included magnesium on its recently released list of critical materials for domestic production.
A paper published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters shows how researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Washington (UW) have found a simple way to isolate a pure magnesium salt, a feedstock for magnesium metal, from seawater. Their new method flows two solutions side-by-side in a long stream. Called the laminar coflow method, the process takes advantage of the fact that the flowing solutions create a constantly reacting boundary. Fresh solutions flow by, never allowing the system to reach a balance.