The most complex zeolite structure yet discovered is reported online inNature Chemistry this week. Its three-dimensional intersecting pore structure makes it a promising catalyst in the petrochemical industry for the conversion of naphtha to diesel fuel, which currently has no commercial catalyst. Zeolites are materials with pores that are ideally sized for interacting with small molecules and they are used as ‘molecular sieves’ or to catalytically ‘crack’ larger molecules into smaller ones. Unfortunately, this porous nature means they often form only small particles or powders, making it hard to discover their structures using standard tools such as X-ray crystallography. Xiaodong Zou, Avelino Corma and colleagues have now used electron crystallography to discover the structure of a zeolite with the most complex system of pores — in crystals only a few nanometres in size. Its potential use as a catalyst for the conversion of naphtha to diesel fuel is of interest because there is currently an oversupply of naphtha and high demand for diesel.
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