Dr. David A. Rockstraw, P.E. as a member of a research team that includes Gordon Jarvinen (UNLV), NMSU Alum and current CTO of Heavy Oil Solutions, Inc. Steve Yarbro (Ph D, 1996), and John Elling of Molten Salt Solutions, LLC. (and CEO of Santa Fe Quantum Solutions, GPER G-1 Development Group, and Acoustic Biosystems) have received a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research Grant (SBIR) through the National Science Foundation for a project entitled, “Enhanced Lithium Isotope Separation.”
This proposal focuses on the development of a new approach to lithium isotope enrichment – a liquid/liquid extraction method implemented on a high speed countercurrent chromatography (HSCCC) system. Liquid-liquid isotope enrichment is preferred to the historic approach that used mercury amalgam electrodes for cost and environmental reasons. High speed counter current chromatography is an approach to mixing and separating the two liquid phases that is substantially less complicated and less costly to run when compared to liquid-liquid systems such as columns, and centrifuges and mixer/settler cascades that are being employed now. The proposed work will develop a liquid-liquid method for a novel HSCCC system and demonstrate isotope separation with it. The demonstration system will serve as a platform for a techno-economic analysis to forecast the commercial cost of production that could be achieved by scaling up the new technology (this aspect of the work to be performed at NMSU). Alongside the laboratory work, a numerical model will be created that informs the design of larger-scale systems and the economic projections. The total project budget is $256K of which roughly $50K will be a sub award to NMSU for said work to support graduate student research on the topic.