Dr. Muhammad Usman's team from KFUPM (Prof. Zain H. Yamani, Dr. Bassem A. Al-Maythalony, Dr. Habib, Akram Ghanem, Omar Waqas Saadi, Murad Ali, Mohammad A. Jafar Mazumder, Safwat Abdel-Azeim) and his GSI Germany colleagues (Dr. Mubarak Ali and Wolfgang Ensinger), In October 2020, published a high-profile scientific article in the prestigious American chemical society Journal of "Applied Materials & Interfaces".
In this publication, the team discovers the first-ever flexible, continuous, MOF membrane for hydrocarbon purification. This discovery happened in an outcome of three years continuous research work. The researchers finally demonstrate the porous metal-organic framework's confinement on the track-etched nanochannels polyethylene terephthalate (np-PET) membrane using liquid phase epitaxy (LPE) technique. The resulted composite membrane (MOF/np-PET) after 100 cycles' growth showed defect-free MOF growth continuity, strong attachment of MOF to the support, and a high degree of flexibility. The achieved flexibility and the strong confinement of the obtained membrane upon folding and shaking results from; (i) the flexible np-PET support, (ii) coordination attachment between the HKUST-1 and support, and (iii) the growth of HKUST-1 crystal in nanoconfined geometries. The MOF has a preferred growth orientation with a window size of 3.5 Å, which results in a clear cut-off of CO2 from natural gas and olefins. The experimental and DFT results show that the restricted diffusion of gases only takes place through the nanoporous MOF confined in the np-PET substrate. This research thereby provides a new perspective to grow other porous MOFs in artificially prepared nanochannels for the realization of continuous, flexible, and defect-free membranes in various applications.
This research work also covered the successful execution of the project "MOE-RDO High Quality-Impact Research Publication Initiative".
Saudi Aramco funded the Carbon Capture Chair group at CENT-KFUPM. From left to right Mr. Omar Waqas Saadi, Dr. Bassem A Al-Maythalony, Dr. Muhammad Usman Dr. Mahmoud M Abdelnaby, Mr. Ahmed Alloush, Dr. Mostafa Zeama, Dr. Ha L Nguyen, Prof. Omar Yaghi, Dr. Zain Yamani, Mr.Saleh Almoteri, Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Zahrani, Dr. Aasif Helal, Mr. Kyle E Cordova, Dr. M Nasiruzzaman Shaikh, and Dr. Muhammad Altaf.
Prof. Omar M. Yaghi is the pioneer of advanced porous materials like MOFs. He is currently Saudi Aramco Chair-Professor and his research at KFUPM continues to progress in a positive direction with the discovery and synthesis of several new MOF-related materials. Dr. Usman is a member of Prof. Yaghi's team at KFUPM and his research is focused on the applications of MOFs for CO2 capture and its conversion to useful products. The current discovery will reinforce the spirit of MOF's applications to solve the current challenges of CO2 capture and conversion, under the guidance of Prof. Yaghi, and coordinated by Prof. Zain H. Yamani, the director of CENT at KFUPM .
In this research, the polymeric nanopores prepared in GSI Germany by Dr. Mubarak Ali and was further used by KFUPM researchers to grow MOFs in these nanochannels. Previously, several unsuccessful and non-continuous growth were reported. However, KFUPM researchers' made history by filling these nanochannels with MOFsbringing 300 nm pores to 0.35 nm pores, which was used for hydrocarbon purifications. The MOF is chemically bonded to the wall and surfaces of the nanochannels that it is not detached by folding, shaking, or under ultrasonic vibrations. Details of the synthetic strategy are given in the main manuscript and SI in the provided link https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsami.0c13715