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Refinement of pore size at sub-angstrom precision in robust metal–organic frameworks for separation of xylenes

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Mark ThomasORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020, The Author(s).The demand for xylenes is projected to increase over the coming decades. The separation of xylene isomers, particularly p- and m-xylenes, is vital for the production of numerous polymers and materials. However, current state-of-the-art separation is based upon fractional crystallisation at 220 K which is highly energy intensive. Here, we report the discrimination of xylene isomers via refinement of the pore size in a series of porous metal–organic frameworks, MFM-300, at sub-angstrom precision leading to the optimal kinetic separation of all three xylene isomers at room temperature. The exceptional performance of MFM-300 for xylene separation is confirmed by dynamic ternary breakthrough experiments. In-depth structural and vibrational investigations using synchrotron X-ray diffraction and terahertz spectroscopy define the underlying host–guest interactions that give rise to the observed selectivity (p-xylene < o-xylene < m-xylene) and separation factors of 4.6–18 for p- and m-xylenes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li X, Wang J, Bai N, Zhang X, Han X, da Silva I, Morris CG, Xu S, Wilary DM, Sun Y, Cheng Y, Murray CA, Tang CC, Frogley MD, Cinque G, Lowe T, Zhang H, Ramirez-Cuesta AJ, Thomas KM, Bolton LW, Yang S, Schroder M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Communications

Year: 2020

Volume: 11

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 27/08/2020

Acceptance date: 06/07/2020

Date deposited: 02/12/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17640-4

PubMed id: 32855396


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Funder referenceFunder name
EPSRC (EP/I011870)
European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 742401, NANOCHEM).
Royal Society
University of Manchester