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Molecular sieve is the functional designation for natural and synthetic zeolites (aluminosilicates) and other substances that have a high adsorption capacity for gases, vapors and dissolved substances with certain molecular sizes. With a suitable choice of molecular sieve, it is possible to separate molecules of different sizes. In addition to zeolites, carbon molecular sieves are also used. On the one hand, these are still somewhat more expensive due to the process, on the other hand, they can be specialized for a specific separation during pyrolysis.
Molecular sieves have a large internal surface area (600–700 m2/g) and have uniform pore diameters that are of the order of the diameters of molecules.
Molecular sieves in powder, rod or bead form are commercially available. The most common pore sizes are:
One advantage of molecular sieves is that they can be regenerated almost any number of times by heating them to 350–400 °C. Care must be taken to ensure slow heating, otherwise the molecular sieve ages too quickly or is completely destroyed.
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