Separation of pyrrolidine from tetrahydrofuran by using pillararene-based nonporous adaptive crystals†
Pyrrolidine, an important feedstock in the chemical industry, is commonly produced via vapor-phase catalytic ammoniation of tetrahydrofuran (THF). Obtaining pyrrolidine with high purity and low energy cost has extremely high economic and environmental values. Here we offer a rapid and energy-saving method for adsorptive separation of pyrrolidine and THF by using nonporous adaptive crystals of per-ethyl pillararene (EtP6). EtP6 crystals show a superior preference towards pyrrolidine in 50 : 50 (v/v) pyrrolidine/THF mixture vapor, resulting in rapid separation. The purity of pyrrolidine reaches 95% in 15 min of separation, and after 2 h, the purity is found to be 99.9%. Single-crystal structures demonstrate that the selectivity is based on the stability difference of host–guest structures after uptake of THF or pyrrolidine and non-covalent interactions in the crystals. Besides, EtP6 crystals can be recycled efficiently after the separation process owing to reversible transformations between the guest-free and guest-loaded EtP6.