Chemistry

Making a Zeolite Leaf

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Science  04 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5629, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5629.19a

Porous materials, such as zeolites, are commonly synthesized by using “sacrificial templates” that are removed after synthesis. A similar imprinting process occurs when biological specimens are fossilized, resulting in mineralized impressions that preserve complex and hierarchical structures. In fact, single-celled algae and wood have actually been used as templates for zeolite synthesis, but these efforts relied on the addition of “seed” crystals.

Valtchev et al. show that amorphous silica (an intrinsic constituent of many plants) can induce fast and uniform nucleation of zeolite without requiring seed crystals. Freeze-dried leaves of Equisetum arvense (field horsetail) have a high content of silica (about 13 weight %). After hydrothermal treatment with a silica-containing solution, the leaves were transformed into a combined micro-and macroporous zeolite material that retained the morphology of the original leaves. — JFU

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 42, 2782 (2003).

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