Catalan Water Research Institute research and innovation for the sustainable use of water

Jelena Radjenovic receives an ERC Consolidator Grant for the ELECTROmonoLITH project

Thursday, 23 November 2023

  • The ICREA researcher at ICRA-CERCA will receive funding of two million euros to continue her research on the selective electrochemical recovery of valuable metals such as lithium from brines and industrial waters
  • Globally, the European Research Council has awarded 627 million euros to 308 researchers, of which only 23 are from Spain

The European Research Council has awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to ICREA researcher at the Catalan Water Research Institute (ICRA-CERCA), Jelena Radjenovic, to lead the ELECTROmonoLITH project on the separation and recovery of lithium and other metals from brines and industrial waters using electrochemical systems. The researcher has received funding of two million euros for research over a period of five years.

Critical raw materials (CRM) such as lithium play a key role in the current energy transition due to their importance in numerous clean energy technologies. Competition for critical raw materials and their concentration among a small number of countries, mainly China, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, creates a challenging geopolitical environment for Europe.

The ELECTROmonoLITH project seeks to develop a new technology for the selective recovery of lithium and other valuable metals (eg cobalt, nickel, copper) from industrial wastewater and brines. The technology is based on the electrochemical extraction of metals using specially designed electrodes to selectively separate metals from wastewater. Wastewater from various industries, geothermal brines are potential sources of critical raw materials for the decarbonization of the economy. For example, in the recycling of Li batteries, the lithium they contain is rejected since there is still no technology capable of extracting it from their waste water efficiently and at low cost.

For Radjenovic, being selected is a source of pride and satisfaction: “I feel privileged to be able to have a third project funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The generous funding from the ERC Consolidator Grant will allow us to take risks in the development of new technologies for the recovery of lithium and other critical raw materials from wastewater, and we hope that in a few years we will be able to have tangible results and impact on industry and society”.

About Jelena Radjenovic

ICREA Research Professor at the Catalan Water Research Institute (ICRA-CERCA) in Girona. PhD in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Barcelona (2009), did her thesis at the Institute of Environmental Diagnostics and Water Studies (IDEA-CSIC). He has worked at the University of Queensland (Australia), Technical University of Berlin (Germany), Plataforma Solar de Almeria, and University of California at Berkeley (USA).

Currently, he leads the research group at ICRA dedicated to the development of new water treatment technologies based on electrochemistry and nanotechnology. His research group has carried out pioneering work in the development of nanostructured graphene materials for the electrochemical degradation of poly- and perfluorinated compounds, pollutants that are persistent in the water treatments currently applied. He has obtained several grants and highly competitive projects, including Marie Curie (2014), Ramon i Cajal (2015), ERC Starting Grant (2016) and ERC Proof of Concept Grant (2023). She has been awarded the National Young Talent Research Award of Catalonia for 2021.

627 million euros for 308 researchers

From among 2,130 candidates, the European Research Council has selected 308 researchers for this year’s Consolidator Grants. The funding will support outstanding scientists and academics at a stage in their careers when they are still building their own independent research teams, with the aim of pursuing the most promising scientific ideas. Endowed with a total of 627 million euros, the grants are part of the EU’s Horizon Europe program.

Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth of the European Union, said: “I extend my most sincere congratulations to all the brilliant researchers who have been selected for ERC Consolidator Grants. I am particularly excited to note the significant number of women among the winners for the third consecutive year in this prestigious grant competition. This positive trend not only reflects the outstanding contributions of researchers, but also highlights the progress we are making towards a more inclusive and diverse scientific community.”