Zeolite is aluminosilicate or molecular sieve, a crystalline solid made from silica, aluminum, and oxygen. They are naturally available and can be synthesized chemically. Some of the natural zeolites are analcime, chabazite, clinoptilolite, erionite, ferrierite, heulandite, laumontite, mordenite, and phillipsite. Zeolites provide porous structure and high surface area. Due to its high selectivity, the desired reaction is catalyzed and the yield of a reaction is maximized. Molecular properties and structure of zeolite make it an ideal shape selective catalyst.
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Zeolites, owing to its acidity, find application in catalytic cracking, alkylation, isomerization, and aromatization reactions. Fluidized catalytic cracking is the largest and oldest application of zeolite catalysts. Zeolites have the unique ability to adsorb water while rejecting larger molecules and hence, find applications in drying air, organic solvents, natural gas, and refrigerants. Various type of zeolites such as ZSM-5, Zeolites A, X, mordenite is used for removing gases such as ammonia (NH3), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), and Carbon dioxide (CO2). Purification of hydrocarbon liquids and gases is also done by zeolites.
Zeolites are increasingly being used in water treatment. In water and wastewater treatment, zeolites are used for heavy metal removal, ammonia removal, and water softening. The removal efficiency of zeolites depends upon contact time, type, amount, temperature, initial metal concentration, and pH. Zeolites have been extensively used for removal of heavy metals from industrial wastewater. Zeolites are used for heavy metal removal in nuclear, mine, and industrial wastes. Zeolites are also useful in agriculture to supply ammonium and potassium ions from soil. Researchers in the horticulture and agriculture sector are also focusing on zeolites for improving crop yields.
By 2000, NASA scientists developed a synthetic super-soil, loaded with zeolite minerals that contain essential plant growth nutrients. This technique was named ‘zeoponics’. It is a new growth medium developed for space travel.
A major driver for the growth of the global zeolite market is rising demand for the detergents for the domestic and industrial application. For instance, According to the department of consumer affairs, in India, the market for synthetic detergents was valued at about US $1.63 billion in 2013, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of three percent. Zeolites remove dyes from the washing liquor by hetero-coagulation and adsorption. Zeolites can exchange hard ions with soft ions and are used for softening of water.
However, increasing adoption of catalysts, which are equally cost competitive may hamper the growth of the global zeolite market. For instance, Rare earth metal ions which are costly are being replaced by Copper, Zinc, Cobalt etc.
Europe held the dominant position in the market in 2017. Radiation modified natural zeolites are used for treating nuclear waste and natural zeolite minerals as storage of solar energy. Europe is projected to maintain its dominance throughout the forecast period, owing to the rising use of bio-based raw materials and renewable sources of energies such as nuclear or solar. This factor will contribute towards the lucrative growth of global zeolite market.
According to US Geological Survey Minerals Yearbook, in 2015, natural zeolites production was increased by 20% to 75,100 metric tons in the U.S. and global production was estimated at around 2.7-3.2 million metric tons. According to this survey, China was the leading producer of natural zeolites in 2015, with production likely in the range of 1.8 to 2.2 million metric tons.
Among function, catalyst segment is projected to gain major traction over the forecast period, owing to high demand from chemical and petrochemicals industries. Properties of zeolites such as acidity and shape selectivity play a major role in their use as a catalyst and therefore is used in the manufacturing of chemicals and premium quality fuels.
Key players in Global Zeolite Market
Key players operating in the global zeolite market include BASF SE, Arkema Group, Tosoh Corporation, Zeochem AG, Grace Catalyst Technologies, Zeox Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., Clariant, Eurecat, Yingkou Zhongbao Molecular Sieve Co, Ltd, KNT Group, Dalian Haixin Chemical Industrial Co. Ltd, Zeolyst International, National Aluminium Company Limited, PQ Corporation, UOP LLC, KMi zeolite Inc, Zeotech, and Blue Pacific Minerals Ltd.
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