Zeolite Catalysts – What is Zeolite and Their Examples?

Michael Deem

January 30, 2023

Michael W. Deem Research Group
Michael Deem

Michael Deem

Michael W. Deem | Zeolite Catalysts – What is Zeolite and Their Examples?

The word “zeolite” is used to describe a mineral that has catalytic properties. The mineral’s use can be very beneficial for many industries. These include petrochemical, water treatment, food processing, and medical applications. This article will explore the properties and potential applications of zeolites.

Natural Zeolites

Natural zeolites are crystalline aluminosilicates made from oxygen, silicon, and aluminum. They are found naturally in rocks and sediments. Zeolites are also manufactured. However, they are usually chemically modified.

Zeolites are typically formed through the crystallization of silica-alumina gel, which has been added to organic templates and alkalis. The resultant zeolites are less stable than their natural counterparts. Various methods are used for their synthesis, including thermal and hydrothermal processes.

Several studies have been done to understand the behavior of natural zeolites. These findings have revealed that they are cationic exchangers. This property makes them useful in water softening applications, as well as in the treatment of wastewater. As a result, many commercial washing powders contain substantial amounts of zeolites. Moreover, they exhibit excellent selectivity for different cations at low temperatures.

One of the primary pollutants in wastewater is ammonium. Ammonium binds to zeolites through two parallel processes. For this reason, further research should focus on improving the chemical stability of modified zeolites. In addition, further industrial research should also concentrate on exploring the surface-binding properties of zeolites.

In addition to their aluminosilicate framework, zeolites can also be modified to capture anions. Some of these changes include the addition of a quaternary ammonium cation or positively charged oxi-hydroxides.

Michael Deem

Michael Deem

Catalytic Properties

Zeolites are one of the most effective catalysts for various chemical processes. They are a group of microporous materials with bronsted solid acid sites. These pores allow small molecules to diffuse through and trap larger ones. The zeolite framework also exhibits shape selectivity.

Zeolites are used in industrial applications as water softeners, depleting radioactive cations from liquid nuclear waste, and removing toxic heavy metal ions from groundwaters. A zeolite can be exchanged with positively-charged ions such as H+ or Na+ in an aqueous solution.

Typical zeolites contain a Si/Al ratio of 30. This makes them less acidic than a zeolite with a higher Si/Al. Some zeolites, such as those dedicated to NaOH or TPAOH, display good acid properties and mesoporosity.

Among the silica-based binders, alumina is the most widely used. Its low cost and thermal stability make it suitable for use as a binder. Besides, g-Alumina has a crystalline framework and moderate Lewis acidity. In addition, what can modify it with meso- or macropores?

There are nearly twenty zeolite structures currently in commercial use. Many researchers are focusing on zeolites’ costs, simplicity, and textural properties. Moreover, they are applying efforts to minimize the textural properties of zeolites.

Several factors determine the acidity of zeolites. Most studies on zeolites’ acidity have been done using a method called TPD-NH3. Pyridine was adsorbed on a zeolite to study its acidity during this process. Various data were collected, including frequency shifts of OH bands interacting with CO, stretching frequency of CO molecules, and acid strength of hydroxyl groups.

Michael Deem

Michael Deem


Zeolite applications are found in a variety of fields. These include air pollution remediation, water purification, biomass conversion, and CO2 capture.

One of the most apparent advantages of zeolites is their superior adsorption capability. They have been used in the oil refining industry for several decades. In addition, they have also been employed in a wide range of medical and biomedical applications.

For example, they are bactericidal agents in dental and MRI contrast agents. They also have been found to improve the bioavailability of drugs in the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, they are effective in controlling bone resorption.

In addition, zeolite is a promising material for controlled drug delivery. It can also be used for oral delivery of pharmaceuticals targeting intestinal worms or gastric cancer. Besides, they have the potential to improve the immunity of farm animals.

Zeolites can be formed from kaolin, feldspar, or bauxite. Zeolite has also been functionalized with metal oxides and transition metals. This can lead to producing new types of zeolite highly desirable for superior catalytic and adsorption performance.

The synthesis of zeolites has led to expanding exploitation in biomedical research. However, their widespread application could be improved. Despite this, their theoretical analysis is essential for each of the applications.

Michael Deem has been studying zeolites for 35 years.  A recent award, among his many, has been given for zeolite science: Fannie and John Hertz Fellow (1991-1994); Senior Research Scientist, CuraGen Corporation (1994-1995); NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry (1995-1996); Assistant and tenured Associate Professor, UCLA (1996-2002); NSF CAREER Award (1997-2001); Northrop Grumman Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award (1997); Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam (1999); A Top 100 Young Innovator, MIT’s Technology Review (November 1999) (Profile and Original Profile); Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2000); Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2002); John W. Cox Professor, Rice University (2002-2020); Allan P. Colburn Award (2004); Editorial Board Member, Protein Engineering, Design and Selection (2005-present); Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2005); Member, Board of Directors, Biomedical Engineering Society (2005-2008); Fellow, American Physical Society (2006); Member, Rice University Faculty Senate (2006-2009); Vaughan Lectureship, California Institute of Technology (2007); Member, Nominating Committee, Division of Biological Physics, American Physical Society (2007); Member, Board of Governors, Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (2007-present); Fellow, Biomedical Engineering Society (2009); BMES Representative on the FASEB Publications & Communications Committee (2009-2012); Professional Progress Award (2010) (Profile); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010); External Scientific Advisor, Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (2010-present); Associate Editor, Physical Biology (2011-2018); Edith and Peter O’Donnell AwardThe Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2012); Founding Director, Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (2012-2014, raised $0.5M seed funding); Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (2012-2013); Chair, Department of Bioengineering (2014-2017, raised $12M in external startup funding for new faculty); Editorial Advisory Board, Bioengineering and Translational Medicine, (2016-2019); Donald W. Breck Award for zeolite science (2019); and NACD Board Leadership Fellow and Directorship Certification (2020).  Michael W. Deem has developed widely used computational tools for zeolite structure solution and a large database of predicted zeolite structures.  A recent article on zeolites discusses De Novo Design of Organic Structure Directing Agents for the Synthesis of Zeolites in a book about AI‐Guided Design and Property Prediction for Zeolites and Nanoporous Materials.  His name has been synonymized with innovation and thought-provoking research for three decades.  He enjoys mentoring and helping others invent the future.

Michael Deem

Michael Deem

Useful Links
Michael W. Deem Research
Michael W. Deem Research Bio
Michael W. Deem
Michael Deem
Certus LLC
Dr. Michael Deem
Dr. Michael W. Deem
Michael W. Deem Crunchbase
Michael W. Deem google scholar
Michael W. Deem Academic Tree
Michael W. Deem Research Gate
Michael W. Deem ORCID
Michael W. Deem Web of Science
Michael W. Deem Frontiers Bio
Michael W. Deem Scopus
Michael W. Deem DBLP
Michael Deem Gravatar
Michael Deem About me
Michael W. Deem WordPress
Michael W. Deem Tumblr
Michael W. Deem Instapaper
Michael W. Deem FYI.TO
Michael W. Deme JimDoSite
Michael W. Deem Jigsy
Michael W. Deem Blog
Michael W. Deem Blog II

Michael W. Deem LinkedIn
Michael W. Deem Wikipedia
Michael W. Deem Twitter
Michael W. Deem YouTube
Michael W. Deem YouTube II
Michael W. Deem YouTube III