Ethane/ethylene separation in a metal-organic framework with iron-peroxo sites

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Science  26 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6413, pp. 443-446
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0586

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A preference for ethane

Industrial production of ethylene requires its separation from ethane in a cryogenic process that consumes large amounts of energy. An alternative would be differential sorption in microporous materials. Most of these materials bind ethylene more strongly that ethane, but adsorption of ethane would be more efficient. Li et al. found that a metal-organic framework containing iron-peroxo sites bound ethane more strongly than ethylene and could be used to separate the gases at ambient conditions.

Science, this issue p. 443


The separation of ethane from its corresponding ethylene is an important, challenging, and energy-intensive process in the chemical industry. Here we report a microporous metal-organic framework, iron(III) peroxide 2,5-dioxido-1,4-benzenedicarboxylate [Fe2(O2)(dobdc) (dobdc4−: 2,5-dioxido-1,4-benzenedicarboxylate)], with iron (Fe)–peroxo sites for the preferential binding of ethane over ethylene and thus highly selective separation of C2H6/C2H4. Neutron powder diffraction studies and theoretical calculations demonstrate the key role of Fe-peroxo sites for the recognition of ethane. The high performance of Fe2(O2)(dobdc) for the ethane/ethylene separation has been validated by gas sorption isotherms, ideal adsorbed solution theory calculations, and simulated and experimental breakthrough curves. Through a fixed-bed column packed with this porous material, polymer-grade ethylene (99.99% pure) can be straightforwardly produced from ethane/ethylene mixtures during the first adsorption cycle, demonstrating the potential of Fe2(O2)(dobdc) for this important industrial separation with a low energy cost under ambient conditions.

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