Zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF)-based membranes and sorbents for advanced olefin/paraffin separations
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Propylene is one of the most important feedstocks of the petrochemical industry with an estimated 2015 worldwide demand of 100 million tons. Retrofitting conventional C3 splitters is highly desirable due to the huge amount of thermal energy required to separate propylene from propane. Membrane separation is among the alternatives that both academia and industry have actively studied during the past decades, however; many challenges remain to advance membrane separation as a scalable technology for energy-efficient propylene/propane separations. The overarching goal of this research is to provide a framework for development of scalable ZIF-based mixed-matrix membrane that is able to deliver attractive transport properties for advanced gas separations. Zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) were pursued instead of conventional molecular sieves (zeolites and carbon molecular sieves) to form mixed-matrix membrane due to their intrinsic compatibility with high Tg glassy polymers. A systematic study of adsorption and diffusion in zeolitic imidazolate framework-8 (ZIF-8) suggests that this material is remarkably kinetically selective for C3 and C4 hydrocarbons and therefore promising for membrane-based gas separation and adsorptive separation. As a result, ZIF-8 was used to form mixed-matrix dense film membranes with polyimide 6FDA-DAM at varied particle loadings and it was found that ZIF-8 significantly enhanced propylene/propane separation performance beyond the “permeability-selectivity” trade-off curve for polymeric materials. Eventually, this research advanced ZIF-based mixed-matrix membrane into a scalable technology by successfully forming high-loading dual-layer ZIF-8/6FDA-DAM asymmetric mixed-matrix hollow fiber membranes with attractive propylene/propane selectivity.