The BiSSL group joins 1 of 16 teams that have been selected for NSF’s Convergence Accelerator Grant

NSF’s Convergence Accelerator is developing use-inspired solutions to address challenges aligned to the manufacturing, reuse and recycling of critical materials and products. The BiSSL group joins one of sixteen teams that have been selected for the program’s Track I: Sustainable Materials for Global Challenges.

The project is titled: Toward Water Circularity: Mining Green Hydrogen and Value-Added Materials from Hypersaline Brines, and is led by Oregon State University. The team is made up of: Dr. Zhenxing Feng (PI), Dr. Alex Chang (Co-PI), Dr. Astrid Layton (Co-PI), and Dr. Kelsey Stoerzinger (Co-PI). Feng, Chang, and Stoerzinger are all at Oregon State University in the Department of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering.

ABSTRACT. This track I NSF’s Convergence Accelerator aims to converge advances in fundamental materials science with innovative design and manufacturing methods to couple their end-use and full life-cycle considerations for environmentally- and economically sustainable materials and products. Guided by this principle and motivated by the global goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, this project focuses on demonstration of a sustainable production and manufacturing process for large-scale hydrogen deployment and critical materials mining from earth’s abundant hypersaline brines (e.g., seawater). Hydrogen is a green fuel that can help accelerate decarbonization processes, and materials such as Lithium and Rare Earth elements that are critical to U.S. supply chain independence. This project emphasizes transformation from a linear to a circular economy; it enables a convergent, innovative team of universities, industry partners, government agencies, and students/trainees to ensure that the knowledge developed transitions effectively into many aspects of practice. The proposed circular use of water for fuel by renewable energy and extraction of critical materials for renewable energy production has broad societal impacts for a sustainable future. This project integrates multidisciplinary thinking into the undergraduate and K-12 curriculum, producing future engineers and scientists with skills and interests to work on multidisciplinary problems. This research supports and benefits the local community, such as the Oregon Coast’s Blue Sector Partnership Network consisting of partners from workforce development, school districts (CTE), industry, government, research, maritime, municipalities, and blue technology.

This proposal aims to demonstrate the sustainable mining of green hydrogen in parallel with value-added critical elements from hypersaline brines (e.g., seawater) for clean energy applications. Motivated by the global goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, circular economy principles guide our development of sustainable processes for materials/fuels production, utilization, and recycling. Seawater represents the most abundant resource on the earth, with immense surface accessibility and large amounts of solubilized elements imperative for clean energy technologies. Seawater can also be split using renewable energy (e.g., solar) to obtain hydrogen fuel, with benign oxygen gas as a byproduct. Hydrogen presents a zero-emission fuel (producing water in a fuel cell), part of a circular sustainable process. Developing an integrated solution for extracting hydrogen and critical elements from seawater requires a multidisciplinary team from universities, industry partners, government agencies, and students/trainees. With our patented technologies and research results in critical areas, we aim to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge, tools, and modes of thinking under the guidance of circular economy principles to accelerate and converge our research to two integrated prototypes: a mineral-water separation reactor and downstream electrolyzer (producing hydrogen from the reduced-saline effluent). In addition to this prototyping, we will also identify in Phase 1 additional areas of expertise through team activities to prepare our Phase 2 project. In parallel, we will engage local stakeholders (focused on the Oregon Coast with our local expertise) and create training programs to educate next-generation workforces with innovative circular concepts in both Phases.