Separation Science

NREL is developing energy-efficient technologies to reduce separation costs and address long-standing separation challenges in the geothermal industry.

Simulated moving bed equipment.
NREL's expertise in separation science is leading to innovative ways to recover critical materials such as lithium from geothermal brines.

On average, separations account for 20%–40% of production cost and dominate energy consumption in chemical and mining processes.

Our areas of separation science research include:

  • Advanced mineral separation technologies
  • Nonthermal dewatering technologies
  • Purification of bioproducts from fermentations
  • Purification of natural products from plant extracts
  • In situ product recovery from fermentations and chemical reactions
  • Gas phase separations.


  • Counter current chromatography
  • Simulated moving bed chromatography
  • Ion exchange and continuous ion exchange
  • Dynamic membranes and membrane systems
  • Continuous liquid liquid extraction
  • Supercritical fluid-driven extractions and separations
  • Crystallization
  • Distillation
  • Energy, operating expense, capital expense, and greenhouse gas footprint analysis


In Situ Product Recovery of Bio-Based Ethyl Esters via Hybrid Extraction-Distillation, Green Chemistry (2019)

Reducing Energy, Solvent, and Resin Demand of Sorption-Based Processes for Carboxylic Acid Recovery, American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting (2019)

In Situ Recovery of Bio-Based Carboxylic Acids, Green Chemistry (2018)

Post-Fermentation Recovery of Biobased Carboxylic Acids, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2018)

View all NREL publications about geothermal research.