Heavy Demand for Zeolites in Technology Applications and End-Uses is Leading to its Market Growth
Zeolites are three-dimensional minerals with micropores built in a crystal-like structure. It is used in catalysts and commercial adsorbents. It consists of elements such as oxygen, aluminium, and silicon, along with alkaline-Earth metals like magnesium, sodium, and potassium-containing trapped water molecules in their gaps.
Naturally, the commodity is found as cavity fillings in mafic volcanic rocks, a by-product of removal by vapours or fluids. The formation of zeolites as a commodity happens when the volcanic glass existing in alluvial rocks are utilised as a reinforcing substance in detrital rocks. These deposits are extensively found in oceans.
On an industrial scale, zeolites are created synthetically. Some standard methods include the aqueous solutions of silica and alumina being heated with sodium hydroxide. Industrially produced variations are made in a pure and uniform state. As the key ingredients used in the production of zeolites are alumina and silica, which are available in abundance, the supply for zeolites is practically inexhaustible.
Owing to the porous nature of Zeolites, they are employed in several technology applications, including molecular sieves and catalysts used to separate and sort out numerous molecules. It is also used to purify air and water, remove radioactive pollutants, etc. They are used in water softening devices due to their framework and ion exchange properties; they also find use in making soaps and detergents driving the demand.
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Industrially, the commodity is employed to produce synfuels and petrochemicals and refine petroleum. Synthetically produced zeolites are crucial catalysts in petrochemical refineries. Zeolites find application in gas separation as their porous structure sieves molecules with particular dimensions and lets them penetrate the pores.
Zeolites find extensive application in the healthcare sector. It is a dietary supplement to treat diarrhoea, herpes, cancer, autism etc.
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Other compound uses include pest control management, fertilizers and pesticides, feed additives, and packaging materials for food.
Considering the properties of zeolites, the environmental and commercial uses in several end-uses are endless. These can also be used in industrial sites and landfills to control the release of harmful components into the environment.
Many efforts are being made to create new technologies and materials to aid sustainability issues caused by the growing population and industry advancements. They are being employed in sustainable processes because of their properties such as high hydrothermal stability, selecting and exclusive structure, surface assimilation and ion-swapping ability, tunable alkalinity, and contraposition or duality, and lesser manufacturing costs.
The applications include thermal energy storage, air-pollution remediation, biomass conversion, CO2 capture and conversion, among others.
Natural zeolites like chabazite, clinoptilolite and mordenite contain minerals apt for ion exchange. The largest regional producer of the commodity is Mainland China, followed by South Korea and Slovakia. Apart from these regions, production on a global scale is highly decentralized.
In a review by the Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, Jeffrey Rimer, Abraham E. Dukler stated in the Nature Synthesis journal that in the last decade, several methods have been used to make nano-sized dimensions zeolites and hierarchical structures. It has been concluded that the smaller the size is better, and structure is crucial.
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