The crystallization of zeolites, a disorder-to-order transformation of aluminosilicates, has not been thoroughly understood because the nucleation events in the amorphous matrix are difficult to recognize from the diverse structural changes, especially for the dense hydrogel systems. Therefore, relationships between the synthesis conditions, the generated amorphous species, and the crystallization behavior of zeolites remain unclear. Herein, by comparatively investigating the structural evolution of the aluminosilicate matrix in a dense hydrogel system when different Si reactants (fumed silica and silicate solution) are employed, we demonstrate that the reactivity of the reactants and the kinetics of the condensation reaction is critical to the formation of short-range order in an amorphous matrix, which greatly influences the nucleation frequency of zeolites. It was revealed that an amorphous solid containing plentiful Al-rich four-membered rings and Si-rich six-membered rings could be produced when fumed silica gradually reacted with sodium aluminate solution at 80 °C. It is considered that the interaction between these rings promotes the construction of the essential building units of zeolite X (FAU). In contrast, a complex aluminosilicate matrix was formed immediately when sodium silicate solution was mixed with sodium aluminate solution due to the intense condensation reaction. Furthermore, this complex matrix became more stable when the reactant mixture was hydrothermally treated at 80 °C, which significantly impedes the crystallization process. Aging the reactant mixture at ambient temperature before heating, instead, facilitated the formation of short-range order in the amorphous matrix, which increases the nucleation frequency of zeolites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry