PerspectiveMaterials Science

Toward High-Throughput Zeolite Membranes

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Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 767-768
DOI: 10.1126/science.1205957

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Summary

Many energy-conservation strategies in manufacturing rely on replacing or combining thermally driven separation processes such as distillation with more efficient ones (1). Membranes made from zeolites, crystalline materials with precisely defined pores in the size range of molecules (angstroms to nanometers), are a promising material with which to achieve highly selective separations based on molecular recognition by the membrane pores (2). Although small-pore hydrophilic zeolite membranes for the dehydration of solvents and biofuels can be found in several small- to medium-scale industrial plants (3), zeolite membranes have been too expensive to replace competing technologies for many other applications. Competitive performance will likely come from creating thinner zeolite films with a hierarchical approach, in which nanoscale zeolite crystals or fragments of these structures assemble into larger porous networks.