Unfortunately, creating synthetic zeolites is very complex. Researchers at KU Leuven, Ghent University and the University of Antwerp have discovered a way to make new zeolites quickly. “The method is faster than existing methods and contributes to the development of a more sustainable, greener chemical industry," says KU Leuven Professor Christine Kirschhock.
Zeolites are best known for their ubiquitous use as water softeners in detergents and as catalysts in industry. A catalyst is a mediator that increases the efficiency of chemical reactions, saving huge amounts of energy. Zeolites are robust and reusable – making them environmentally friendly catalysts.
There are various types of zeolites, each with their own specific structure and porous make-up. Naturally-occurring zeolites are often unsuitable for industrial applications because their pores are small. Developing synthetic zeolites, however, is very complex and often a matter of trial and error.
Around 200 different synthetic zeolites currently exist, of which only 20 are actually used in industry. The desired properties of the zeolite – its composition, pore size, reusability and so on – change with each new application. Until now, designing a zeolite with predetermined characteristics was impossible.
Researchers from Leuven, Ghent and Antwerp have now experimentally demonstrated that it is possible to cut zeolite building blocks and rearrange them into a new structure. Professor Christine Kirschhock of KU Leuven explains: “A zeolite can be thought of as a set of merged building blocks. We are now able to separate certain blocks of a zeolite and then reassemble them into different configurations, depending on the desired properties.”
This generic method for creating new zeolites has significant advantages: “In addition to new possibilities for applications, the method contributes to the development of a more sustainable, greener chemical industry. It is the first-ever example of customizable zeolite design.”
• Professor Veronique Van Speybroeck, Ghent University, Centre for Molecular Modelling, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +32 (0) 92 64 65 58• Professor Gustaaf Van Tendeloo, University of Antwerp, EMA, email@example.com, tel. +32 (0) 32 65 32 62
An online version of this press release, with accompanying images and captions, is available at: http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/cut-and-paste-zeolites
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