SuperLig® Products

Selective Separations

Based on Nobel Prize winning chemistry, Molecular Recognition Technology (MRT) is a highly selective, non-ion exchange process, using specially designed organic chelating agents or ligands. The MRT process utilizes supramolecular, “lock and key” or “host guest”, chemistry as a basis for its high selectivity.

Large-scale MRT separation systems incorporate SuperLig® solid phase particles (~0.5mm) such as silica gel or polymer substrates to which the selective ligand has been chemically attached. The SuperLig® beads are packed into fixed-bed columns that are built in skid-mounted modular form, and are fully automated for continuous operation. The feed solution is passed through the column and the target specie is removed selectively from the solution.

SuperLig® products are designed to bind selectively with ions based on multiple parameters such as size, coordination chemistry, and geometry. In contrast, separation methods used in conventional technologies such as ion exchange, solvent extraction and precipitation generally recognize differences between ions based only on a single parameter (e.g., charge, solubility, size). SuperLig® products bind ions selectively even when the ions are present in highly acidic or basic solution and/or in solutions containing high concentrations of competing ions. High species selectivity, high binding factors, and rapid reaction kinetics result in very efficient separations. The simple elution chemistry features a wide choice of eluent formulations to ensure compatibility with particular plant requirements. Since small volumes of eluate are used, highly concentrated eluent solutions are produced. The MRT process has wide applicability in selective metal recovery from primary or secondary processing streams, industrial processes, low-grade feed streams, environmental waste streams, and streams formed from recycling of spent catalysts, e-waste and other end of life products.

Significant Improvement in Process Conditions

The exceptional selectivity of SuperLig® products for specific metal-containing or other species results in MRT separation systems that have high loading capacities for the metal of interest, thus negating further expensive and time-consuming separations required by conventional technologies. A significant advantage of the MRT system is the ability to handle high solution volumes at high flow rates on a continuous and automated basis, switching between multiple columns as required. MRT systems can be designed and constructed for any size, concentration, and volume-throughput requirement.

Small Floor Space Requirement

MRT systems are compact. This factor makes their use feasible for on-site separation, recovery, and purification of target metals eliminating the necessity of finding off-site locations for waste disposal of unwanted metal impurities.

Short Process Time

Time is a major concern in many industries that involve the recovery of metals from process solutions, recycled material and wastes. MRT processes offer significant time advantages. First, metal loading times are rapid. Loading rates of 0.2 to 0.4 L/kg of resin per minute are achievable. Second, combined with rapid elution times, the turnaround for consecutive runs is very fast compared to conventional technologies. Third, incorporation of MRT systems into existing flow sheets of commercial operations can markedly shorten processing times and increase productivity.

High Selectivity for Target Species

The distinguishing feature of the SuperLig® products is their high selectivity for target species. This feature allows the rejection by a metal-specific SuperLig® product of other metals present making high loading of the target metal possible. Subsequent elution provides a pure and concentrated target metal product without further purification steps. Toxic and/or radioactive metals can be separated and recovered as pure products and either be sold for value or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Economic Advantages

Significant economic advantages result from the use of MRT. First, the column system is inexpensive, easy to install, and can be conveniently operated in an automated mode. Relatively small quantities of SuperLig® products are required resulting in a more compact installation than is the case with conventional technologies. Solution wash and elution volumes are minimized due to the rapid loading and unloading of the target metal ion. SuperLig® products have long life expectancies and do not introduce contaminants into the separation process. Second, low-cost reagents compatible with the operation are used for elution. These reagents normally work effectively at ambient temperatures and pressures, although sometimes, increased temperature is necessary. Third, inexpensive SuperLig® elution procedures are used. The elution process is rapid and amenable to automated on-line multi-cycle operation. The eluate normally contains a 99.99% pure metal product in a single pass. If necessary, more than one pass can be used to obtain desired metal purity. Fourth, high selectivity, high loading capacity, and rapid loading and release kinetics of the SuperLig® products result in lower capital and operating costs in commercial-scale operations compared to other separation procedures. Fifth, metal inventory time is negligible compared to that for other separation procedures.

Environmentally and Ecologically Friendly Process

SuperLig® products selectively and rapidly separate, concentrate and recover target metals in pure form with a minimal carbon footprint. Accompanying metals are retained for value or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. The resulting stream, devoid of its metal content, can be safely discharged. Separation and recovery of the valuable, toxic and other metals in pure form at or near their source from mining, industrial processes, e-waste and other streams for re-use or safe disposal are of enormous value from environmental, ecological, and sustainability standpoints.


IBC’s SuperLig® products are used in a wide range of selective metal cation and anion separations from complex matrices. Examples include precious, base, and minor metals as well as rare earth elements, radionuclides, and toxic elements. Capabilities are broad and encompass a large portion of the Periodic Table. SuperLig® products are sold worldwide directly through IBC or through agents such as Sunny Limited in Japan.

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MRT plants using SuperLig® are used to extract, recover, and/or refine kilogram to multi-ton quantities of purified metals from a variety of primary and secondary feed sources and waste streams. For example, MRT is used worldwide for the refining of precious metals. One Japanese customer, Tanaka Kinkinzoku Kogyo, uses IBC’s products to purify precious metals in what is believed to be the world’s largest automobile catalytic converter recycling process. The greater efficiency of the SuperLig® technology in the refining and recycling of precious metals reduces the need for obtaining new metals by mining and replaces processing steps in conventional metal refining processes that consume excess energy and pollute the environment. The MRT process has a very low carbon footprint since the operations are carried out at ambient temperatures and pressures.

Impala Platinum (South Africa), one of the world’s largest platinum group metals mining companies, uses MRT to refine its palladium, a critical component in auto catalysts and industrial processes.

IBC’s SuperLig® products also have the capability to commercially refine and/or recover base, specialty and minor metals including Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Mo, Re, U, rare earths, and others. SuperLig® products are also used to extract impurities, such as Bi, Fe, Pb, Sb, Cd, Cu, Ni, Sc, F and Cl, from process streams that adversely impact product quality or the environment. For example, pure copper, essential for today’s high-tech economy, is made possible by the extraction of bismuth impurity by an award winning MRT process at major copper refineries such as Asarco (Texas) and LS Nikko (Korea).

SuperLig® products are effective in process waste streams in recovering and/or removing to very low concentration levels (mg/L to µg/L) toxic metals and radionuclides such as As, Cd, Hg, Pb, Tl, Cs, Sr, Ra and Tc.

SuperLig® products have important applications in recycling valuable metals such as Pd, Pt, Rh, Ir, Ru, Au, Co, Ni, In, rare earths, Y, V, Re etc. from spent catalysts, electronic scrap, and a wide range of end-of-life products.

Demonstrated Features of SuperLig® MRT Separation Systems

  • Do not introduce or produce new pollutant(s)
  • Do not exchange one contaminant for another
  • Are environmentally friendly, operate at ambient pressures and temperatures, and have very low carbon footprints
  • Can be used as efficiently with large as well as with very small volumes of solution
  • Are highly selective for the targeted metal(s) even in highly acidic, highly basic, or concentrated salt solutions
  • Maintain efficiency as the concentration of the metal decreases to the ppb/ppt range even in high concentrations of matrix ions
  • Are highly selective for a targeted metal even when other similar metals are present, sometimes at much greater concentrations
  • Can be used to concentrate a separated metal to a very large degree
  • Can be automated and incorporated into a real time procedure for the continuous separation of a metal from a solution and recovery of the metal in a highly purified form in a concentrated solution