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Zeolite Structure

The corresponding crystallographic structure is formed by tetrahedras of (AlO4) and (SiO4). These tetrahedras are the basic building blocks for various zeolite structures, such as zeolites A and X, the most common commercial adsorbents.

Molecular Sieve Type A Molecular Sieve Type X

Molecular Sieve Type A Molecular Sieve Type X

Due to the presence of alumina, zeolites exhibit a negatively charged framework, which is counter-balanced by positive cations resulting in a strong electrostatic field on the internal surface. These cations can be exchanged to fine-tune the pore size or the adsorption characteristics. For instance, the sodium form of zeolite A has a pore opening of approximately 4 Ångstrom (4 x 10–10 m), called 4A molecular sieve. If the sodium ion is exchanged with the larger potassium ion, the pore opening is reduced to approximately 3 Ångstrom (3A molecular sieve). On ion exchange with calcium, one calcium ion replaces two sodium ions. Thus, the pore opening increases to approximately 5 Ångstrom (5A molecular sieve). Ion exchange with other cations is sometimes used for particular separation purposes.


The pore opening of the sodium form of zeolite X (13X) is approximately 8 Ångstrom.

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