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Boosting Ethane/Ethylene Separation within Isoreticular Ultramicroporous Metal–Organic Frameworks

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journal contribution
posted on 14.09.2018, 00:00 by Rui-Biao Lin, Hui Wu, Libo Li, Xiao-Liang Tang, Zhiqiang Li, Junkuo Gao, Hui Cui, Wei Zhou, Banglin Chen
The separation of ethane from its analogous ethylene is of great importance in the petrochemical industry, but very challenging and energy intensive. Adsorptive separation using C2H6-selective porous materials can directly produce high-purity C2H4 in a single operation but suffers from poor selectivity. Here, we report an approach to boost the separation of C2H6 over C2H4, involving the control of pore structures in two isoreticular ultramicroporous metal–organic framework (MOF) materials with weakly polar pore surface for strengthened binding affinity toward C2H6 over C2H4. Under ambient conditions, the prototypical compound shows a very small uptake difference and selectivity for C2H6/C2H4, whereas its smaller-pore isoreticular analogue exhibits a quite large uptake ratio of 237% (60.0/25.3 cm3 cm–3), remarkably increasing the C2H6/C2H4 selectivity. Neutron powder diffraction studies clearly reveal that the latter material shows self-adaptive sorption behavior for C2H6, which enables it to continuously maintain close van der Waals contacts with C2H6 molecules in its optimized pore structure, thus preferentially binds C2H6 over C2H4. Gas sorption isotherms, crystallographic analyses, molecular modeling, selectivity calculation, and breakthrough experiment comprehensively demonstrate this unique MOF material as an efficient C2H6-selective adsorbent for C2H4 purification.