Collaborative Research: Scalable Production of Metal-Organic Molecular Sieves with Optimized Gas Transport Properties
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Metal-organic molecular sieves are advanced sponge-like materials that possess internal cavities on the molecular scale and exhibit large total pore volume and surface area. The precisely defined pore sizes and surface openings in these molecular sponges only allow molecules of specific size, which is tunable, to be transported through them. It is these unique properties of metal-organic molecular sieves that find their uses in a wide range of applications including separations, catalysis, sensors, drug delivery, and sustainable energy technologies. Currently, these molecular sponges are made using precipitation from a solution. These methods are too expensive for wide commercial uses, primarily because they are not readily scalable. Here, the work aims to develop a new, large-scale production technology based on a scalable spray-drying technique to drastically reduce the fabrication costs and to improve transport properties of these materials. The spray-drying technique will allow controlling and optimizing the pore aperture sizes and pore architecture of nanoporous molecular sponges for such advanced applications. A novel measurement technique will be used to study microscale gas transport in these materials. These studies will be performed to guide the design of molecular sieves optimized with respect to their transport properties. The interdisciplinary nature of the project, spanning material design/synthesis in combination with the advanced transport studies, provide a rich research experience for high school, undergraduate and graduate students involved in the work.The main goal of the researched work is the development of an advanced scalable process for the designed construction of multi-functional/multi-structured nanoporous hybrid metal-organic framework materials and their composites exhibiting the desired transport properties. This goal will be achieved by completing the following three main objectives: 1) to develop aerosol-assisted (i.e., spray-drying) soft chemistry as a new paradigm for the large-scale synthesis of metal-organic frameworks by gaining a fundamental understanding of physico-chemical processes involved in aerosol-assisted soft chemistry, 2) to design and engineer MOF particles with unique microstructures and functionalities, and 3) to establish the relationship between structural and transport properties as well as the related catalytic performance of the resulting new materials through detailed studies of microscopic transport by a recently developed nuclear magnetic resonance technique. This fundamental research will lead to a set of design rules for the commercially-viable synthesis of multi-functional metal-organic framework materials and their composites with unique microstructures optimized for molecular transport and related catalytic performance.