Controlling guest conformation for efficient purification of butadiene

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Conventional adsorbents preferentially adsorb the small, high-polarity, and unsaturated 1,3-butadiene molecule over the other C4 hydrocarbons from which it must be separated. We show from single-crystal x-ray diffraction and computational simulation that a hydrophilic metal-organic framework, [Zn2(btm)2], where H2btm is bis(5-methyl-1H-1,2,4-triazol-3-yl)methane, has quasi-discrete pores that can induce conformational changes in the flexible guest molecules, weakening 1,3-butadiene adsorption through a large bending energy penalty. In a breakthrough operation at ambient temperature and pressure, this guest conformation–controlling adsorbent eluted 1,3-butadiene first, then butane, butene, and isobutene. Thus, 1,3-butadiene can be efficiently purified (≥99.5%) while avoiding high-temperature conditions that can lead to its undesirable polymerization.

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