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Computational Screening of Nanoporous Materials for Hexane and Heptane Isomer Separation

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posted on 05.07.2017, 00:00 by Yongchul G. Chung, Peng Bai, Maciej Haranczyk, Karson T. Leperi, Peng Li, Hongda Zhang, Timothy C. Wang, Tim Duerinck, Fengqi You, Joseph T. Hupp, Omar K. Farha, J. Ilja Siepmann, Randall Q. Snurr
Computational high-throughput screening was carried out to assess a large number of experimentally reported metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) and zeolites for their utility in hexane isomer separation. Through the work, we identified many MOFs and zeolites with high selectivity (SL+M > 10) for the group of n-hexane, 2-methylpentane, and 3-methylpentane (linear and monobranched isomers) versus 2,2-dimethylbutane and 2,3-dimethylbutane (dibranched isomers). This group of selective sorbents includes VICDOC (Fe2(BDP)3), a MOF with triangular pores that is known to exhibit high isomer selectivity and capacity. For three of these structures, the adsorption isotherms for a 10-component mixture of hexane and heptane isomers were calculated. Subsequent simulations of column breakthrough curves showed that the DEYVUA MOF exhibits a longer process cycle time than VICDOC MOF or MRE zeolite, which are previously reported, high-performing materials, illustrating the importance of capacity in designing MOFs for practical applications. Among the identified candidates, we synthesized and characterized a MOF in a new copper form with high predicted adsorbent capacity (qL+M > 1.2 mol/L) and moderately high selectivity (SL+M ≈ 10). Finally, we examined the role of pore shape in hexane isomer separations, especially of triangular-shaped pores. We show through the potential energy surface and three-dimensional siting analyses that linear alkanes do not populate the corners of narrow triangular channels and that structures with nontriangular pores can efficiently separate hexane isomers. Detailed thermodynamic analysis illustrates how differences in the free energy of adsorption contribute to shape-selective separation in nanoporous materials.