Air Liquide Scientific Challenge on "Essential Small Molecules" Opens the Way for New Acetylene Markets

Published on May 26, 2022

6 mins

Results of a joint research between the Materials Science group of the Air Liquide Innovation Campus Tokyo and the research group of Prof. Kitagawa (Kyoto University) carried out as part of the Scientific Challenge have been accepted for publication in "Nature Chemistry", a prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal. These disruptive results come from the collaborative research with Prof. Kitagawa’s research group (Kyoto University), in the frame of the 2016 Air Liquide scientific challenge on essential small molecules “Pocketable small molecules”.

Acetylene is a small molecule, essential to society, used notably as a fuel for welding or a carbon source for heat treatment. Due to its high reactivity, acetylene cannot be safely compressed over 2 bars. Today, solvent based packaging storage technologies allow safe transportation of this molecule at high pressure. At the same time, even if solvent is key for ensuring the safety of acetylene storage, it is a source of customers' pain points such as pollution of their processes or a limited acetylene delivery rate. 

Starting from these limitations, the Material Science group at Innovation Campus Tokyo collaborated with Prof. Kitagawa, a world-class leader in Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), to develop suitable porous materials capable of storing large quantities of  acetylene at low pressure while releasing the solvent-free gas at  customers' usage conditions. 

The team developed a solution based on "flexible MOFs", a type of adsorbent capable of spontaneously releasing the gas stored in its nanopores when pressure drops below a threshold value (namely “gate closing”) without needing vacuum or high temperatures (as for VSA or TSA processes). It is both the originality of the method enabling tuning the "gate closing" threshold pressure and the large-scale demonstration based on prototype cylinders that led this work to be accepted for publication in a scientific publication as prestigious as Nature Chemistry.

This technology contributes to reducing pain points of acetylene customers while addressing new uses for which solvent contamination are limiting factors today.  And beyond acetylene and gas storage, this type of material paves the way to promising applications in the field of gases separation thanks to its potential of reducing the specific energy of current processes.

Congrats to the authors**, in particular to Christophe Lavenn, Tofumi Ogawa (R&D Material Science Group at the Campus Innovation Tokyo) and Régis Réau (R&D Scientific  Director - Senior Fellow Air Liquide).
Stay tuned to the R&D Currents community Exploring to follow R&D developments to develop innovations that contribute to the performance of operations, the decarbonization of the planet or the opening of new markets.

*Flexible MOFs: a type of MOF (Metal-organic framework) adsorbent able to store molecules in nanopores (in a sponge-like behaviour) and to release the stored molecule spontaneously when the pressure reaches a threshold value.
**Authors: Mickaele Bonneau1 , Christophe Lavenn2 , Jia-Jia Zheng1,3, Alexandre Legrand1 , Tomofumi Ogawa2 , Kunihisa Sugimoto1,4, Francois-Xavier Coudert5 , Regis Reau6 , Shigeyoshi Sakaki3 , Ken-ichi Otake1 & Susumu Kitagawa1*
1 Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (WPI-iCeMS), Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606- 8501, Japan 
2 Air Liquide Laboratories, Innovation campus Tokyo, 2-2 Hikarinooka, Yokosuka, Kanagawa, 239-0847 Japan 
3 Element Strategy Initiative for Catalyst and Batteries, Kyoto University, Goryo-Ohara 1-30, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 615-8245, Japan 
4 Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute/ SPring-8, Kouto, Sayo, Hyogo 679-5198, Japan 
5 Chimie Paris Tech, PSL University, CNRS, Institut de Recherche de Chimie Paris, 75005 Paris, France 
6 Air Liquide R&D, Innovation Campus Paris 1, Chemin de la Porte des Loges 78350 Les Loges-en-Josas, France.  

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