Researchers produce materials at the frontier between order and disorder with state-of-the-art technology in sustainable chemistry

(Nanowerk News) The University of Alicante's Laboratory of Molecular Nanotechnology (NANOMOL) has created a cutting-edge opportunity for the chemical industry, renewable energy, and pollution reduction with a new family of materials.
Published in Nature Communications ("Tunable hybrid zeolites prepared by partial interconversion"), the discovery has opened up numerous possibilities for sectors like energy and pharmaceuticals.
Researchers are generally looking to create highly ordered materials, such as zeolites. As the most significant and widely used catalyst family in the chemical industry, zeolites are made up of regularly repeating units. However, UA researcher and author of the paper, Noemí Linares, believes that messy and intermediate materials present many opportunities. Imperfect and disordered materials offer endless possibilities for creating unique materials with unique properties.
UA's researchers have produced materials that are halfway between ordered structures, such as zeolites, and unordered structures. These hybrid materials have numerous advantages, such as high surface area, which allows the transformation of bulky molecules. This is impossible with conventional zeolites, which have narrow pores. The researchers have built materials with irregular but large cavities, allowing them to transform complex and bulky molecules.
zeolite structure beind a glass bottle of rod shaped pills
Reproduction of the new materials from zeolites with different characteristics. (Image: Roberto Ruiz, UA)
The University of Alicante has patented this technology and is waiting for final approval. UA is identifying companies that may be interested in taking these materials to industry. However, beyond its applications, this discovery is fascinating from a geometrical and structural point of view.
To create these materials, the UA research team used a well-known process to transform one zeolite into another, stopping the conversion to obtain intermediate, half-made materials that contain the characteristics of both solids. The UA professor explains the process as if they had stopped the transformation of a worm into a butterfly, discovering something entirely new and fascinating with innumerable applications.
This discovery presents a revolution in the field of catalysis and is critical in making the chemical industry more sustainable. The researchers selected the most interesting parts of each zeolite to create something new with the most suitable composition for each application. Furthermore, the structural flexibility of the materials reduces carbon waste and CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by allowing molecules to enter and exit more efficiently.
Source: Asociación RUVID (Note: Content may be edited for style and length)
Share this:
We curated lists with the (what we think) best science and technology podcasts - check them out!