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Processing–Structure–Performance Relationships of Microporous Metal–Organic Polymers for Size-Selective Separations

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journal contribution
posted on 14.01.2021, 02:29 by Jen-Yu Huang, Yuanze Xu, Phillip J. Milner, Tobias Hanrath
Small-molecule impurities, such as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), have infiltrated the generic drug industry, leading to recalls in commonly prescribed blood pressure and stomach drugs in over 43 countries since 2018 and directly affecting tens of millions of patients. One promising strategy to remove small-molecule impurities like NDMA from drug molecules is by size exclusion, in which the contaminant is removed by selective adsorption onto a (micro)­porous material due to its smaller size. However, current solution-phase size-exclusion separations are primarily limited by the throughput-selectivity trade-off. Here, we report a bioinspired solution to conquer these critical challenges by leveraging the assembly of atomically precise building blocks into hierarchically porous structures. We introduce a bottom-up approach to form micropores, mesopores, and macroscopic superstructures simultaneously using functionalized oxozirconium clusters as building blocks. Further, we leverage recent advances in photopolymerization to design macroscopic flow structures to mitigate backpressure. Based on these multiscale design principles, we engineer simple, inexpensive devices that are able to separate NDMA from contaminated drugs. Beyond this urgent model system, we expect this design strategy to open up hitherto unexplored avenues of nanomaterial superstructure fabrication for a range of size-exclusion purification strategies.

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