N-Aryl-linked spirocyclic polymers for membrane separations of complex hydrocarbon mixtures

KA Thompson and R Mathias and D Kim and J Kim and N Rangnekar and JR Johnson and SJ Hoy and I Bechis and A Tarzia and KE Jelfs and BA McCool and AG Livingston and RP Lively and MG Finn, SCIENCE, 369, 310-+ (2020).

DOI: 10.1126/science.aba9806

The fractionation of crude-oil mixtures through distillation is a large- scale, energy-intensive process. Membrane materials can avoid phase changes in such mixtures and thereby reduce the energy intensity of these thermal separations. With this application in mind, we created spirocyclic polymers with N-aryl bonds that demonstrated noninterconnected microporosity in the absence of ladder linkages. The resulting glassy polymer membranes demonstrated nonthermal membrane fractionation of light crude oil through a combination of class- and size-based "sorting" of molecules. We observed an enrichment of molecules lighter than 170 daltons corresponding to a carbon number of 12 or a boiling point less than 200 degrees C in the permeate. Such scalable, selective membranes offer potential for the hybridization of energy-efficient technology with conventional processes such as distillation.

Return to Publications page