UK-based Watercycle Technologies Ltd, a critical minerals and water filtration specialist, has been granted a £500,000 ($572,428) Innovate UK Smart Grant, in partnership with Cornish Lithium Ltd, to test its direct lithium extraction (‘DLE’) process in Cornwall, England.
Watercycle says its patented filtration process can selectively extract lithium from sub-surface waters, such as those found in the Southwest of the UK.
Given lithium’s essential role in battery technologies, the ability to obtain it from waters cost effectively and establish a domestic supply of the mineral is vital for the UK’s net-zero strategy, it says.
Under the terms of the agreement, Watercycle will deliver a containerised filtration system to extract lithium from Cornish Lithium’s project in Cornwall at a pilot scale. The project, which includes an environmental impact assessment, is anticipated to complete in October 2023.
Watercycle was spun out from the University of Manchester and is backed by business accelerator Aer Ventures. Smart, meanwhile, is Innovate UK’s responsive grant funding program.
Watercycle CEO, Dr Seb Leaper, said: “Having already proven that our proprietary filtration membranes and systems work in lab conditions, we are excited to be working with Cornish Lithium to demonstrate their scalability and accelerate the creation of a resilient, domestic lithium supply chain in the UK. This agreement marks the next step in our development strategy as we look at the commercialisation of our technology, which is capable of treating a wide range of water types and can deliver dramatic reductions in costs, carbon emissions and water consumption compared with current processes.”
Watercycle co-Founder and CTO, Dr Ahmed Abdelkarim, added: “It is great to be working with like-minded partners, Cornish Lithium and Innovate UK, which, like us, are focused on making a positive impact on the global transition through advancing innovative technologies.”
Lead Geochemist at Cornish Lithium, Dr Rebecca Paisley, said: “Working with Watercycle in the development of a pilot system aligns strongly with our research and innovation strategy, as well as our continued efforts to trial multiple DLE technologies at pilot scale in Cornwall to establish the most effective and responsible process flowsheet. We have a good relationship with the Watercycle team and look forward to progressing the project over the next 12 months.”