Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the material is a metal-organic framework, or MOF, which can be imagined as a sponge with microscopic holes.
This view of the molecular structure of the MOF shows the triangular channels that run through the material. The walls of these channels trap the lower-octane components of gas while allowing the higher-octane molecules to pass through, potentially providing a more efficient and cost effective way to refine high-octane gasoline.
Credit: Science/AAAS [Higher resolution versions available from firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The innumerable interior walls of the MOF form triangular channels that selectively trap only the lower-octane components based on their shape, separating them easily from the higher-octane molecules in a way that could prove far less expensive than the industry's current method. The Long laboratory and UC Berkeley have applied for a patent on the MOF, which is known by its chemical formula, Fe2(bdp)3.
High-octane gasolines, the ultra or premium blends at fueling stations, are more expensive than regular unleaded gasoline due to the difficulty of separating out the right type of molecules from petroleum. Petroleum includes several slightly different versions of the same molecule that have identical molecular formulae but varying shapes—called isomers. Creating premium fuel requires a refinery to boil the mixture at precise temperatures to separate the isomers with the most chemical energy. The trouble is, four of these isomers—two of which are high octane, the other two far lower—have only slightly different boiling points, making the overall process both challenging and costly.
The new MOF, however, could allow refineries to sidestep this problem by essentially trapping the lowest-octane isomers while letting the others pass through. The lowest-octane isomers are more linear and can nestle closer to the MOF walls, so when a mixture of isomers passes through the MOF, the less desired isomers stick to its surface—somewhat akin to the way a wet piece of paper sticks.
Matthew Hudson and his colleagues at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) used neutron powder diffraction, a technique for determining molecular structure, to explore why the MOF has the right shape to selectively separate the isomers. Their research was essential to validate the team's model of how the MOF adsorbs the low-octane isomers.
"It's easier to separate the isomers with higher octane ratings this way rather than with the standard method, making it more efficient," says Hudson, a postdoctoral fellow at the NCNR. "And based on the lower temperatures needed, it's also far less energy-intensive, meaning it should be less expensive." Hudson says that while industrial scientists will need to work out how to apply the discovery in refineries, the new MOF appears to be robust enough in harsh conditions to be used repeatedly a great many times, potentially reducing the necessary investment by a petroleum company.
* Z.R. Herm, B.M. Wiers, J.A. Mason, J.M. van Baten, M.R. Hudson, P. Zajdel, C.M. Brown, N. Masciocchi, R. Krishna and J.R. Long. Separation of hexane isomers in a metal-organic framework with triangular channels. Science, May 24, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.12334071
Chad Boutin | EurekAlert!
A new tool for discovering nanoporous materials
23.05.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Did you know that packaging is becoming intelligent through flash systems?
23.05.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy