Tunable Molecular Sieving by Hierarchically Assembled Porous Organic Cage Membranes with Solvent-Responsive Switchable Pores

Abdul Ghaffar, Muhammad Hassan, Oleksiy V. Penkov, Cafer T. Yavuz, Kemal Celebi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Molecular separations involving solvents and organic impurities represent great challenges for environmental and water-intensive industries. Novel materials with intrinsic nanoscale pores offer a great choice for improvement in terms of energy efficiency and capital costs. Particularly, in applications where gradient and ordered separation of organic contaminants remain elusive, smart materials with switchable pores can offer efficient solutions. Here, we report a hierarchically networked porous organic cage membrane with dynamic control over pores, elucidating stable solvent permeance and tunable dye rejection over different molecular weights. The engineered cage membrane can spontaneously modulate its geometry and pore size from water to methanol and DMF in a reversible manner. The cage membrane exhibits ≥585.59 g mol-1 molecular weight cutoff preferentially in water and is impeded by methanol (799.8 g mol-1) and DMF (≈1017 g mol-1), reflecting 36 and 73% change in rejection due to self-regulation and the flexible network, respectively. Grazing incidence X-ray diffraction illustrates a clear peak downshift, suggesting an intrinsic structural change when the cage membranes were immersed in methanol or DMF. We have observed reversible structural changes that can also be tuned by preparing a methanol/DMF mixture and adjusting their ratio, thereby enabling gradient molecular filtration. We anticipate that such cage membranes with dynamic selectivity could be promising particularly for industrial separations and wastewater treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20380-20391
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 5 2023


  • molecular separation
  • nanofiltration
  • porous organic cages (POCs)
  • smart membranes
  • solvent-responsive
  • stimuli-responsive
  • switchable selectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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