Membrane-based approaches can offer energy-efficient and cost-effective methods for various separation processes. Practical membranes must have high permselectivity at industrially relevant high pressures and under aggressive conditions, and be manufacturable in a scalable and robust fashion. We report a versatile electrochemical directed-assembly strategy to fabricate polycrystalline metal–organic framework membranes for separation of hydrocarbons. We fabricate a series of face-centred cubic metal–organic framework membranes based on 12-connected rare-earth or zirconium hexanuclear clusters with distinct ligands. In particular, the resultant fumarate-based membranes containing contracted triangular apertures as sole entrances to the pore system enable molecular-sieving separation of propylene/propane and butane/isobutane mixtures. Prominently, increasing the feed pressure to the industrially practical value of 7 atm promoted a desired enhancement in both the total flux and separation selectivity. Process design analysis demonstrates that, for propylene/propane separation, the deployment of such face-centred cubic Zr-fumarate-based metal–organic framework membranes in a hybrid membrane–distillation system offers the potential to decrease the energy input by nearly 90% relative to a conventional single distillation process.
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The datasets analysed and generated during the current study are included in the paper and its Supplementary Information (Source data) are provided with this paper.
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The authors thank King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) for financial support.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Simon Smart, Michael Tsapatsis and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Zhou, S., Shekhah, O., Jia, J. et al. Electrochemical synthesis of continuous metal–organic framework membranes for separation of hydrocarbons. Nat Energy 6, 882–891 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00881-y
Nature Energy (2021)