Zeolites crystals, used amongst other issues for refining petroleum to fuel and biomass into biofuels, are the most-used catalysts by weight on earth, and finding mechanisms of how they form has been of intense interest to the chemical sector and associated researchers, say chemist Scott Auerbach and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
They hope their advance on a new approach to understanding zeolite structure and vibrations results in new, tailored zeolites for use in refined new applications.
Their story in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society describes how the crew used orderly analyses and a method known as Raman spectroscopy, plus quantum mechanical modeling, to find new nano-scale constructing blocks they name “tricyclic bridges,” to assist clarify zeolites’ porous structures and their dynamical behaviors.
Auerbach says, “This breakthrough is necessary as a result of it gives us a strategy to see the invisible—the exact buildings that result in zeolite crystals. We hope such structural data will help us to create new, tailored zeolites for superior applications in clean energy and carbon capture.”
His co-authors embody chemical engineer Wei Fan and first author Tongkun Wang at UMass Amherst, with others at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The authors say that by changing previous “overly simplistic” approaches, their strategies can “improve our skill to make use of Raman spectroscopy as an analytical tool for investigating zeolite structure and formation, utilizing the idea of tricyclic bridges.”
In this work backed by the U.S. Division of Energy Division of Materials Science and Engineering, Auerbach and colleagues say that exhibiting zeolite synthesis is complicated by the fact that precursor constructions are mid-sized, so they fall into a nano-scale “blind spot”—too giant for atomic-level and functional group structural analyses and too disorganized for X-ray analyses.