Decoupling nucleation from crystal-growth for the synthesis of nanocrystalline zeolites†
The increasing demands for catalysts with improved accessibility to reactants call for a rational synthesis of nanosized zeolites. Herein we developed a facile approach for highly crystalline MFI-type (Silicalite-1 and ZSM-5) and beta zeolites with variable Si/Al ratios and high yield. This was achieved by kinetically decoupling the nucleation from the growth process of the zeolites in a highly concentrated gel system via a temperature-staged treatment. The carefully controlled low-water environment ensures only nucleation in stage I (aging), and hence the generation of abundant nuclei for the subsequent rapid crystallization within a self-confined space at stage II (growth). The method, without using expensive templates or additives, allows the syntheses of nanosized, well-isolated ZSM-5 (Si/Al = 100–∞, 36–88 nm, yield >85%) and Beta (Si/Al = 25–100, 21–66 nm, yield >95%). The ultra-small crystal size endows ZSM-5 zeolites with good catalytic activity, product selectivity and remarkably longer lifetime in methanol conversion reactions.