Extraction and transport of sulfate using macrocyclic squaramide receptors†
The selective extraction of the hydrophilic sulfate ion from water is highly challenging because the high free energy of hydration of this ion makes it more difficult to extract than less hydrophilic ions such as chloride and nitrate. Lipophilic macrocyclic squaramide receptors 1 and 2 were synthesized. Receptor 2 efficiently extracted sulfate from aqueous sodium sulfate solutions into a chloroform phase, via exchange with nitrate ions, overcoming the Hofmeister bias. The resulting 2·SO42− complex was readily recycled through precipitation of BaSO4. Transport of sulfate across a bulk chloroform membrane by 2 was demonstrated across a wide pH range (pH 3.2–9.4) and in the presence of high concentrations of competing anions (chloride, nitrate and dihydrogenphosphate), opening the door to the use of 2 for the selective removal of sulfate from water across a range of applications.