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Zeolite

Zeolites are a group of microporous minerals with a framework structure of tetrahedral units made up of silicon, aluminum, and oxygen, along with other elements like sodium, calcium, and potassium. The name “zeolite” is derived from the Greek words “zeo,” meaning “to boil,” and “lithos,” meaning “stone,” reflecting the tendency of zeolites to release water when heated.

Zeolites are known for their unique property of having a three-dimensional network of pores and channels within their crystal structure. These pores can accommodate water molecules and other small ions, making zeolites useful in various industrial and environmental applications.

One of the primary uses of zeolites is in molecular sieves, where they are employed to separate molecules based on their size and shape. This property is valuable in applications such as gas separation, water purification, and petroleum refining. Zeolites are also used as catalysts in chemical processes due to their ability to selectively promote certain reactions while excluding others.

In soil science and agriculture, zeolites can improve soil structure, increase water retention, and enhance nutrient availability by exchanging ions within their structure. They are utilized in animal husbandry as feed additives to improve digestion and reduce ammonia emissions.

Zeolites have been of interest in environmental science and remediation as well. They can adsorb heavy metals and radioactive ions, making them potential candidates for cleaning up contaminated sites. Natural zeolites are found in various geological settings, often forming as secondary minerals in volcanic rocks or in hydrothermal veins. Synthetic zeolites, created through controlled laboratory processes, have expanded the range of possible applications due to their tailored properties.

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