Growth of zeolites A and X in low earth orbit

Juliusz Warzywoda, Nurcan Baç, Jacobus C. Jansen, Albert Sacco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Zeolites A and X were grown hydrothermally in the microgravity environment (10-3-10-6 g) of the space shuttle. It was hypothesized that this quiescent environment would lead to a means of producing `large' zeolite crystals having a high degree of crystalline perfection, and/or to a means of controlling defect concentration and location. Zeolite crystallizations have been carried out on four separate space shuttle missions: STS-40, USML-1, Spacehab-1, and USML-2. Preliminary results (STS-40) indicated that premixed solutions produced equal-sized intergrown crystals, and suggested that a `pre-nucleation' process had occurred before launch. All successive crystallizations were performed by mixing the precursor solutions on orbit. When nucleation was controlled using the aluminum complexing agents triethanolamine or 2,2-bis(hydroxymethyl)-2,2′,2″-nitrilotriethanol, crystals synthesized in microgravity were approximately 25-70% larger in linear dimension compared to their ground-based controls. The crystals grown in orbit had different nucleation/growth histories as indicated by their particle size distributions (PSDs). They frequently had different morphology (i.e., prominence of the {110} faces on zeolite A grown on earth vs. those grown in orbit) than did crystals grown from identical solutions, identically processed on earth. Based on the volume-normalized PSDs, approximately 15-40% fewer nuclei for zeolite A and approximately 40-60% fewer nuclei for zeolite X were observed in orbit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Crystal Growth
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2000


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