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A very fast way to continuously synthesize zeolites

By Tetsuo Satoh |

For a long time, it has been believed that the crystallization of zeolites is, by nature, a very slow process. The hydrothermal synthesis of zeolites is normally performed batchwise, requiring crystallization times on the order of days. Now, Toru Wakihara and Tatsuya Ohkubo at the Dept. of Chemical System Engineering, University of Tokyo (Japan; www.zeolite.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp) have demonstrated the continuous-flow synthesis of the industrially important zeolite, ZSM-5. Crystallization from the amorphous state to full crystallinity could be completed in just a few seconds, which demonstrates that the time needed for crystallization is 3–4 orders of magnitude shorter than previously believed. The researchers say the fast synthesis offers a great potential for the mass-production of such materials, as well as deepening the fundamental understanding of zeolite formation. The continuous flow reactor has millimmeter-sized channels in which “well-tuned” precursors (at 90°C) are mixed with pressurized, preheated water at 370°C. This leads to the immediate heating of the precursors to 240–300°C, with subsequent, seed-free crystallization of ZSM-5 within tens of seconds, or fewer.
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