Intermediate-sized molecular sieving of styrene from larger and smaller analogues

DD Zhou and P Chen and C Wang and SS Wang and Y Du and H Yan and ZM Ye and CT He and RK Huang and ZW Mo and NY Huang and JP Zhang, NATURE MATERIALS, 18, 994-+ (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41563-019-0427-z

Molecular sieving can lead to ultrahigh selectivity and low regeneration energy because it completely excludes all larger molecules via a size restriction mechanism. However, it allows adsorption of all molecules smaller than the pore aperture and so separations of complicated mixtures can be hindered. Here, we report an intermediate-sized molecular sieving (iSMS) effect in a metal-organic framework (MAF-41) designed with restricted flexibility, which also exhibits superhydrophobicity and ultrahigh thermal/chemical stabilities. Single- component isotherms and computational simulations show adsorption of styrene but complete exclusion of the larger analogue ethylbenzene (because it exceeds the maximal aperture size) and smaller toluene/benzene molecules that have insufficient adsorption energy to open the cavity. Mixture adsorption experiments show a high styrene selectivity of 1,250 for an ethylbenzene/styrene mixture and 3,300 for an ethylbenzene/styrene/toluene/benzene mixture (orders of magnitude higher than previous reports). This produces styrene with a purity of 99.9%+ in a single adsorption-desorption cycle. Controlling/restricting flexibility is the key for iSMS and can be a promising strategy for discovering other exceptional properties.

Return to Publications page