Brine is a high-concentration solution of salt in water. In different contexts, brine may refer to salt solutions ranging from about 3.5% (a typical concentration of seawater, on the lower end of solutions used for brining foods) up to about 26% (a typical saturated solution, depending on temperature). Lower levels of concentration are called by different names: fresh water, brackish water, and saline water.

Brine naturally occurs on the Earth’s surface (salt lakes), crust, and within brine pools on ocean bottom. High-concentration brine lakes typically emerge due to evaporation of ground saline water on high ambient temperatures. Brine is used for food processing and cooking (pickling and brining), for de-icing of roads and other structures, and in a number of technological processes. It is also a by-product of many industrial processes, such as desalination, and may pose an environmental risk due to its corrosive and toxic effects, so it requires wastewater treatment for proper disposal or further utilization (fresh water recovery).

Brines can potentially contain economically viable concentrations of lithium. Continental brines, found in poorly draining basins have become significant production centers for lithium, particularly where high solar evaporation rates can be used as a low cost means of increasing the lithium concentration once the brine is at surface prior to subsequent processing. Work is also underway assessing the potential to extract lithium from brines associated with geothermally active areas and oilfields, where brines are extracted as a waste product from underground formations along with oil and gas.


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