28 August, 2023
The chemical industry and the chemical processes underscoring it are under intense scrutiny as the demands for the transition to more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices are increasing. Traditional industrial separation systems, such as thermally driven distillation for hydrocarbon purification, are energy intensive. The development of more energy efficient separation technologies is thus emerging as a critical need, as is the creation of new materials that may permit a transition away from classic distillation-based separations. In this Perspective, we focus on porous organic cages and macrocycles that can adsorb guest molecules selectively through various host–guest interactions and permit molecular sieving behavior at the molecular level. Specifically, we summarize the recent advances where receptor-based adsorbent materials have been shown to be effective for industrially relevant hydrocarbon separations, highlighting the underlying host–guest interactions that impart selectivity and permit the observed separations. This approach to sustainable separations is currently in its infancy. Nevertheless, several receptor-based adsorbent materials with extrinsic/intrinsic voids or special functional groups have been reported in recent years that can selectively capture various targeted guest molecules. We believe that the understanding of the interactions that drive selectivity at a molecular level accruing from these initial systems will permit an ever-more-effective “bottom-up” design of tailored molecular sieves that, in due course, will allow adsorbent material-based approaches to separations to transition from the laboratory into an industrial setting.