Combining Pre- and Post-Nucleation Trajectories for the Synthesis of High FAU-Content Faujasite Nanocrystals from Organic-Free Sols

Maryam Khaleel, Wenqian Xu, David A. Lesch, Michael Tsapatsis

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29 Scopus citations


The effects of synthesis conditions on the FAU/EMT content and the size of nanocrystals, formed from inorganic aluminosilicate sols, were investigated. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy imaging and comparison of experimental X-ray diffraction patterns with simulations demonstrated that all materials made starting from synthesis mixtures in the composition range (1.8-33) SiO2:1 Al2O3:(2.7-33) Na2O:(41-1000) H2O contain FAU/EMT intergrowths. Compositions with low water content increase the FAU fraction up to 0.8 but the crystal size exceeds 100 nm. Extension of the higher FAU purity to nanocrystals was achieved only by first mixing the sol at high water content compositions that favor nanocrystal formation and then - after a certain time - lowering by freeze-drying the water to levels favoring the formation of FAU. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering from representative optically clear and colloidally stable precursor sols (aged and crystallized at ambient temperature) reveal the formation of amorphous aggregates before the detection of crystals, in agreement with earlier findings and an existing model for the aggregative growth of the zeolite MFI. The presence of these amorphous aggregates coincides with the aforementioned state of sol that preserves the original trajectory toward nanocrystals after the pronounced reduction of water content by freeze-drying. If water reduction by freeze-drying is applied earlier (before the detection of amorphous aggregates), the sol follows the low water content trajectory toward larger crystals. Despite this memory effect, the sol at this stage is still agnostic toward FAU or EMT formation, the relative content of which is dominantly determined by the final water content. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to combine the effects of pre- and post-nucleation sol composition to steer crystal size and crystal structure, respectively. They confirm precursor nanoparticle evolution, while they emphasize the importance of solution phase composition at both pre- and post-nucleation stages of aggregative crystal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4204-4213
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 28 2016


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