Reverse osmosis molecular differentiation of organic liquids using carbon molecular sieve membranes

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  19 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6301, pp. 804-807
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf1343

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Carbon sieving to separate the similar

Separating organic molecules, particularly those with almost equal sizes and similar physical properties, can be challenging and may require energy-intensive techniques such as freeze fractionation. Taking inspiration from reverse osmosis of aqueous fluids, Koh et al. describe the synthesis, characterization, and mass transport performance of carbon molecular sieve membranes for the separation of liquid-phase organic molecules at room temperature. This technique is capable of separating very similar isomers, such as ortho- and para-xylene, on an industrial scale.

Science, this issue p. 804


Liquid-phase separations of similarly sized organic molecules using membranes is a major challenge for energy-intensive industrial separation processes. We created free-standing carbon molecular sieve membranes that translate the advantages of reverse osmosis for aqueous separations to the separation of organic liquids. Polymer precursors were cross-linked with a one-pot technique that protected the porous morphology of the membranes from thermally induced structural rearrangement during carbonization. Permeation studies using benzene derivatives whose kinetic diameters differ by less than an angstrom show kinetically selective organic liquid reverse osmosis. Ratios of single-component fluxes for para- and ortho-xylene exceeding 25 were observed and para- and ortho- liquid mixtures were efficiently separated, with an equimolar feed enriched to 81 mole % para-xylene, without phase change and at ambient temperature.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science