We proposed a new system for Li recovery from salt lake brine by extraction using an ionic liquid.
Cation exchange was proposed to be the mechanism of extraction followed in ionic liquid.
This ionic liquid system shown considerable extraction ability for lithium and the single extraction efficiency of lithium reached 87.28% under the optimal conditions.
Lithium is known as the energy metal and it is a key raw material for preparing lithium isotopes which have important applications in nuclear energy source. In this work, a typical room temperature ionic liquid (RTILs), 1-butyl-3-methyl-imidazolium hexafluorophosphate ([C4mim][PF6]), was used as an alternative solvent to study liquid/liquid extraction of lithium from salt lake brine. In this system, the ionic liquid, NaClO4 and tributyl phosphate (TBP) were used as extraction medium, co-extraction reagent and extractant respectively. The effects of solution pH value, phase ratio, ClO4− amount and other factors on lithium extraction efficiency had been investigated. Optimal extraction conditions of this system include the ratio of TBP/IL at 4/1 (v/v), O/A at 2:1, n(ClO4−)/n(Li+) at 2:1, the equilibration time of 10 min and unadjusted pH. Under the optimal conditions, the single extraction efficiency of lithium was 87.28% which was much higher than the conventional extraction system. Total extraction efficiency of 99.12% was obtained by triple-stage countercurrent extraction. Study on the mechanism revealed that the use of ionic liquid increased the extraction yield of lithium through cation exchange in this system. Preliminary results indicated that the use of [C4mim][PF6] as an alternate solvent to replace traditional organic solvents (VOCs) in liquid/liquid extraction was very promising.