Development of porous metal-organic frameworks for gas adsorption applications
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Metal-organic frameworks are a new class of porous materials that have potential applications in gas storage, separations, catalysis, sensors, non-linear optics, displays and electroluminescent devices. They are synthesized in a "building-block" approach by self-assembly of metal or metal-oxide vertices interconnected by rigid linker molecules. The highly ordered nature of MOF materials and the ability to tailor the framework's chemical functionality by modifying the organic ligands give the materials great potential for high efficiency adsorbents. In particular, MOFs that selectively adsorb CO₂ over N₂, and CH₄ are very important because they have the potential to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and substantially diminish the cost of natural gas production. Despite their importance, MOFs that show high selective gas adsorption behavior are not so common. Development of MOFs for gas adsorption applications has been hindered by the lack of fundamental understanding of the interactions between the host-guest systems. Knowledge of how adsorbates bind to the material, and if so where and through which interaction, as well as how different species in adsorbed mixture compete and interact with the adsorption sites is a prerequisite for considering MOFs for adsorptive gas separation applications. In this work, we seek to understand the role of structural features (such as pore sizes, open metal site, functionalized ligands, pore volume, electrostatics) on the adsorptive separation of CO₂, CO and N₂ in prototype MOFs with the help of molecular modeling studies (GCMC simulations). Our simulation results suggest that the suitable MOFs for CO₂ adsorption and separation should have small size, open metal site, or large pore volume with functionalized groups. Some of the experimental challenges in the MOF based adsorbents for CO₂ capture include designing MOFs with smaller pores with/without open metal sites. Constructing such type of porous MOFs can lead to greater CO₂ capacities and adsorption selectivities over mixtures of CH₄ or N₂. Therefore, in the second project, we focused on design and development of small pore MOFs with/without open metal sites for adsorptive separation of carbon dioxide from binary mixtures of methane and nitrogen. We have synthesized and characterized several new MOFs (single ligand and mixed ligand MOFs) using different characterization techniques like single-crystal X-ray diffraction, powder X-ray diffraction, TGA, BET, gravimetric adsorption and examined their applicability in CO₂/N₂ and CO₂/CH₄ mixture separations. Our findings from this study suggest that further, rational development of new MOF compounds for CO₂ capture applications should focus on enriching open metal sites, increasing the pore volume, and minimizing the size of large pores. Flue gas streams and natural gas streams containing CO₂ are often saturated by water and its presence greatly reduces the CO₂ adsorption capacities and selectivities. So, in the third project, we investigated the structural stability of the developed MOFs by measuring water vapor adsorption isotherms on them at different humid conditions to understand which type of coordination environment in MOFs can resist humid environments. The results of this study suggest that MOFs connected through nitrogen-bearing ligands show greater water stability than materials constructed solely through carboxylic acid groups.