Zeolites are an extremely important class of inorganic materials that can separate gases or liquids on the basis of molecular size and shape. The backbone of a billion-dollar-a-year industry, these molecular sieves are used in numerous applications, from the production of biodegradable detergents, to the removal of moisture from natural gas pipelines, to the catalytic cracking of heavy petroleum distillates into gasoline.
Now, chemist Kenneth S. Suslick and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a new class of materials that are like zeolites in many ways. These new molecular solids are more than 50 percent empty space space that can trap molecules of the right size and shape, including water. The scientists report their discovery in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the journal Nature Materials, and posted on its Web site www.nature.com/materials.
"This organic zeolite analogue binds water faster and more strongly than the best drying agents and has a higher capacity for storing water," said Suslick, a William H. and Janet Lycan Professor of Chemistry at Illinois. "The material also shows shape selectivity, permitting only a narrow range of molecules to enter."
James E. Kloeppel | News Bureau, UIUC
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