Separation of high-molecular-weight polymers differing just by one monomeric unit remains a challenging task. Here, we describe a protocol using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for the efficient separation and purification of mixtures of polymers that differ only by their terminal groups. In this process, polymer chains are inserted by threading one of their extremities through a series of MOF nanowindows. Selected termini can be adjusted by tuning the MOF structure, and the insertion methodology. Accordingly, MOFs with permanently opened pores allow for the complete separation of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) based on steric hindrance of the terminal groups. Excellent separation is achieved, even for high molecular weights (20 kDa). Furthermore, the dynamic character of a flexible MOF is used to separate PEG mixtures with very similar terminal moieties, such as OH, OMe, and OEt, as the slight difference of polarity in these groups significantly changes the pore opening kinetics.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology