Sunday , April 2 2023

UTA researchers find a cheaper and less energy-efficient method to purify ethylene



IMAGE: Rasika Dias, UTA Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
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Credit: ATU

Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington filed a provisional patent application for a new copper compound that can be used to purify ethylene as a raw material in the production of plastics such as polyethylene or PVC as well as other industrial compounds.

Ethylene is produced from crude but is usually obtained as a mixture containing ethane. Manufacturing processes using ethylene typically require pure ethylene raw materials or 99.9%.

"Existing technologies for separating ethylene and ethane use enormous amounts of energy and require high capital investment," said Rasika Dias, professor of chemistry and biochemistry ATU.

"Our new technology uses a copper compound that can selectively absorb ethylene in a solid state, leaving the ethane with the minimum amount of energy released," he added.

Elimination of ethylene by the newly discovered copper complex is readily reversible so that the absorbed ethylene can then be released and recovered using mild changes in temperature or pressure, resulting in the regeneration of the initial copper complex which can be reused several times.

"As a result, our new technology is both sustainable and highly energy efficient and could represent a real breakthrough in the separation of olefins such as ethylene and paraffin propylene, which currently accounts for 0.3% of global consumption energy, annual energy consumption in Singapore, "Dias said.

Researchers reported their new technology in the international journal Angewandte Chemie, in the article "Low net heat of ethylene adsorption obtained by solid structural rearrangement of a discrete copper complex". The paper describes how the release of a very low level of heat during the absorption process is the result of the structural rearrangement of the copper complex following exposure to ethylene.

Fred MacDonnell, UTA's chair of chemistry and biochemistry, congratulated Dias for developing this new technology.

"Dr. Dias and his colleagues took on the challenge of improving one of the most relevant chemical separations and one needed for more industrial processes and the production of products used in our daily lives," said MacDonnell. "This could have very significant implications for the costs associated with the production of these goods and also radically improve the environmental impact by reducing the heat emitted into the atmosphere."


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