Electrochemically modulated separation of olefin-paraffin gas mixtures in membrane electrode assemblies

Toshihiro Akashige, Adlai B. Katzenberg, Daniel M. Frey, Debdyuti Mukherjee, César A. Urbina Blanco, Brian Chen, Yoshiyuki Okamoto, Miguel A. Modestino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Olefin-paraffin separations are large-volume energy-intensive processes for preparing purified monomers such as ethylene and propylene. Currently, these separations are performed using cryogenic distillations, accounting for approximately 250 trillion BTU per year of industrial energy consumption. This work demonstrates an alternative olefin-paraffin separation method based on an electrochemically modulated swing absorption system. Nickel maleonitriledithiolate, an electrochemically active organometallic complex, is dispersed in the ionogel binder of a membrane electrode assembly (MEA). When exposed to propylene-propane gas mixtures, propylene is selectively captured during the oxidation of the complex and is then released when the complex is reduced. Our results suggest that transport limitations of olefins to electrochemical active sites play an important role in determining separation efficacy. Experiments conducted under varying oxidative potentials (from 1 to 3 V) and a reductive potential of −2 V demonstrated the operational robustness of the MEA over multiple capture-and-release cycles. This proof-of-concept demonstration represents a new non-thermal route for purifying the large olefin commodities in the chemical industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-799
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 22 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Energy (miscellaneous)


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