Office for Technology Commercialization

Energy Efficient Propylene/Propane Separation Membrane

Technology #20180064

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
Treatment with ligand vapor forms a zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF) on ZnOChemical plant
Michael Tsapatsis, PhD
Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
External Link (
Xiaoli Ma, PhD
Postdoctoral Associate, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Managed By
Larry Micek
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-9568
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending
Zeolitic imidazolate framework membranes made by ligand-induced permselectivation
Science , Vol. 361, Issue 6406, pp. 1008-1011
Files and Attachments
Non-Confidential Summary [PDF]

Membrane materials embedded inside mesoporous oxide matrix

A nanocomposite membrane showing excellent propylene/propane separation consists of propylene-selective coordination compounds uniquely embedded inside a mesoporous oxide matrix. The mesopores of the matrix are deposited with zinc oxide (ZnO) via atomic layer deposition technique (ALD), and the pores are plugged with a zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF) created by an expansive, reactive transformation of deposited zinc oxide to a zinc-imidazolate coordination compound.

MN-IP Try and Buy
  • Trial period is up to 6 months
  • Trial fee is $5,000 for six months
  • Trial fee is waived for MN companies or if sponsoring $50,000+ research with the University
  • No US patent expenses during trial period
  • $25,000 conversion fee (TRY to BUY)
  • Royalty rate of 3% (2% for MN company)
  • Royalty free for first $1M in sales

** View the Term Sheet **
** Contact Larry Micek for specific details. **

Enhanced separation performances and membrane stability

Propylene/propane separation is one of the most important, challenging and energy-intensive processes in petrochemical industry. The separation is traditionally performed by a highly energy-intensive, and therefore expensive, distillation process. Previous propylene-selective membranes were made by forming a continuous membrane layer on the surface of a porous support, but these membranes are susceptible to mechanical damage during handling and operation and suffer from other stability issues. By creating a propylene-selective nanocomposite membrane with the membrane materials embedded inside a mesoporous oxide matrix, this first-of-its-kind nanocomposite membrane offers enhanced separation performance and membrane stability. In addition, the membrane features an amorphous zinc-imidazolate coordination compound (as opposed to the crystalline structure of other membranes).


●  Novel nanocomposite membrane
●  Improved membrane stability (mechanical and thermal)
●  Enhanced separation performance
●  Easy, reproducible fabrication method
●  Scalable
●  Technoeconomic analysis available   


●  Propylene/propane separation
●  Gas separation
●  Separation membranes
●  Chemical/petrochemical industry
●  Propylene recovery (polypropylene plant

Phase of Development - Prototype made and tested on laboratory scale.

Interested in Licensing?
The University relies on industry partners to scale up technologies to large enough production capacity for commercial purposes. The license is available for this technology and would be for the sale, manufacture or use of products claimed by the issued patents. Please contact Larry Micek to share your business needs and technical interest in this technology and if you are interested in licensing the technology for further research and development.