Enhanced ethylene separation and plasticization resistance in polymer membranes incorporating metal-organic framework nanocrystals

Nat Mater. 2016 Aug;15(8):845-9. doi: 10.1038/nmat4621. Epub 2016 Apr 11.


The implementation of membrane-based separations in the petrochemical industry has the potential to reduce energy consumption significantly relative to conventional separation processes. Achieving this goal, however, requires the development of new membrane materials with greater selectivity, permeability and stability than available at present. Here, we report composite materials consisting of nanocrystals of metal-organic frameworks dispersed within a high-performance polyimide, which can exhibit enhanced selectivity for ethylene over ethane, greater ethylene permeability and improved membrane stability. Our results suggest that framework-polymer interactions reduce chain mobility of the polymer while simultaneously boosting membrane separation performance. The increased stability, or plasticization resistance, is expected to improve membrane utility under real process conditions for petrochemical separations and natural gas purification. Furthermore, this approach can be broadly applied to numerous polymers that encounter aggressive environments, potentially making gas separations possible that were previously inaccessible to membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.