Research Article

Barely porous organic cages for hydrogen isotope separation

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 613-620
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax7427

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Quantum sieves for hydrogen isotopes

One method for improving the efficiency of separation of hydrogen from deuterium (D) is to exploit kinetic quantum sieving with nanoporous solids. This method requires ultrafine pore apertures (around 3 angstroms), which usually leads to low pore volumes and low D2 adsorption capacities. Liu et al. used organic synthesis to tune the pore size of the internal cavities of organic cage molecules. A hybrid cocrystal contained both a small-pore cage that imparted high selectivity and a larger-pore cage that enabled high D2 uptake.

Science, this issue p. 613

Abstract

The separation of hydrogen isotopes for applications such as nuclear fusion is a major challenge. Current technologies are energy intensive and inefficient. Nanoporous materials have the potential to separate hydrogen isotopes by kinetic quantum sieving, but high separation selectivity tends to correlate with low adsorption capacity, which can prohibit process scale-up. In this study, we use organic synthesis to modify the internal cavities of cage molecules to produce hybrid materials that are excellent quantum sieves. By combining small-pore and large-pore cages together in a single solid, we produce a material with optimal separation performance that combines an excellent deuterium/hydrogen selectivity (8.0) with a high deuterium uptake (4.7 millimoles per gram).

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