Poisonous substances can be removed from the soil, while magnetic solutions free water from uranium and microplastics.
Now, a research team from Washington State’s Energy Ministry has succeeded in extracting lithium from water used in industrial processes.
The smallest minerals are attracted to reusable nanoparticles, because they are encased in a magnetic shell.
The loaded particles are then extracted from the water using a magnet. Once the lithium is harvested, the process can begin again.
Water extracted from the earth and used in geothermal power plants could be filtered locally and at low-cost.
The team is now looking at how different nanoparticle shells can be used to target other valuable metals.
Magnets can also be magical in the desert.