New technique developed to separate complex molecular mixtures

February 15, 2013
New technique developed to separate complex molecular mixtures
Professor Cooper: “The holes in these cage molecules act like a shape-selective molecular sieve, rather like a children’s wooden shape puzzle”

Chemists at the University of Liverpool have created a new technique that could be used in industry to separate complex organic chemical mixtures.

Chemical feedstocks containing are used extensively in industry to create modern materials and polymers.

Distillation techniques

Their use relies heavily on distillation techniques which separate complex mixtures into more simple molecules used as building blocks to develop drugs, plastics and new materials.  These techniques can be expensive and involve large amounts of energy for hard-to-separate mixtures.

A team of researchers at the University's Department of Chemistry, led by Professor Andrew Cooper, have created organic molecular crystals that are able to separate important organic by their molecular shape.

Professor Cooper said: "We were able to demonstrate this new molecule separation technique by synthesising porous organic cage molecules that are highly similar in shape to the molecules that need to be separated.

"Flexibility and motion"

"The holes in these cage molecules act like a shape-selective molecular sieve, rather like a children's wooden shape puzzle. Using computer simulations we revealed how the porous cages separate the aromatic feedstocks and show that, unlike a wooden shape puzzle, the mechanism actually involves flexibility and motion in the cage sieves. "

The ability to separate complex molecules using less energy will be important in the future for current petrochemical and chemical industries and for producing any next-generation sustainable bio-derived chemicals.

The findings are part of a five-year research programme in new materials discovery, and are published in Nature Chemistry.

Explore further: Liverpool scientists construct molecular 'knots'

More information: www.nature.com/nchem/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nchem.1550.html

Related Stories

Liverpool scientists construct molecular 'knots'

July 20, 2010

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have constructed molecular 'knots' with dimensions of around two nanometers -- around 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Flexibility: The key to carbon capture

August 12, 2011

From power plants that capture their own carbon dioxide emissions to vehicles powered by hydrogen, clean energy applications often demand materials that can selectively adsorb large volumes of harmful gases. Materials known ...

Building blocks of the future

April 6, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Professor Varinder Aggarwal is no ordinary builder. He and his team in the School of Chemistry have just discovered a new technique that could hasten the development of new drugs for today’s incurable diseases ...

Recommended for you

Scientists develop first catalysed reaction using iron salts

January 20, 2017

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield have developed a new chemical reaction that is catalysed using simple iron salts – an inexpensive, abundant and sustainable alternative to costlier and scarcer metals. The research ...

Chemists cook up new nanomaterial and imaging method

January 20, 2017

A team of chemists led by Northwestern University's William Dichtel has cooked up something big: The scientists created an entirely new type of nanomaterial and watched it form in real time—a chemistry first.

Gecko inspired adhesive can attach and detach using UV light

January 19, 2017

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers at Kiel University in Germany has developed new technology that emulates the way a gecko uses its toes to cling to flat surfaces. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, ...

Treated carbon pulls radioactive elements from water

January 19, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and Kazan Federal University in Russia have found a way to extract radioactivity from water and said their discovery could help purify the hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.