Research ArticleChemistry

Ultrafast selective transport of alkali metal ions in metal organic frameworks with subnanometer pores

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Science Advances  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, eaaq0066
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0066

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Porous membranes with ultrafast ion permeation and high ion selectivity are highly desirable for efficient mineral separation, water purification, and energy conversion, but it is still a huge challenge to efficiently separate monatomic ions of the same valence and similar sizes using synthetic membranes. We report metal organic framework (MOF) membranes, including ZIF-8 and UiO-66 membranes with uniform subnanometer pores consisting of angstrom-sized windows and nanometer-sized cavities for ultrafast selective transport of alkali metal ions. The angstrom-sized windows acted as ion selectivity filters for selection of alkali metal ions, whereas the nanometer-sized cavities functioned as ion conductive pores for ultrafast ion transport. The ZIF-8 and UiO-66 membranes showed a LiCl/RbCl selectivity of ~4.6 and ~1.8, respectively, which are much greater than the LiCl/RbCl selectivity of 0.6 to 0.8 measured in traditional porous membranes. Molecular dynamics simulations suggested that ultrafast and selective ion transport in ZIF-8 was associated with partial dehydration effects. This study reveals ultrafast and selective transport of monovalent ions in subnanometer MOF pores and opens up a new avenue to develop unique MOF platforms for efficient ion separations in the future.

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