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SSZ-13 Crystallization by Particle Attachment and Deterministic Pathways to Crystal Size Control

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journal contribution
posted on 14.10.2015, 00:00 by Manjesh Kumar, Helen Luo, Yuriy Román-Leshkov, Jeffrey D. Rimer
Many synthetic and natural crystalline materials are either known or postulated to grow via nonclassical pathways involving the initial self-assembly of precursors that serve as putative growth units for crystallization. Elucidating the pathway(s) by which precursors attach to crystal surfaces and structurally rearrange (postattachment) to incorporate into the underlying crystalline lattice is an active and expanding area of research comprising many unanswered fundamental questions. Here, we examine the crystallization of SSZ-13, which is an aluminosilicate zeolite that possesses exceptional physicochemical properties for applications in separations and catalysis (e.g., methanol upgrading to chemicals and the environmental remediation of NOx). We show that SSZ-13 grows by two concerted mechanisms: nonclassical growth involving the attachment of amorphous aluminosilicate particles to crystal surfaces and classical layer-by-layer growth via the incorporation of molecules to advancing steps on the crystal surface. A facile, commercially viable method of tailoring SSZ-13 crystal size and morphology is introduced wherein growth modifiers are used to mediate precursor aggregation and attachment to crystal surfaces. We demonstrate that small quantities of polymers can be used to tune crystal size over 3 orders of magnitude (0.1–20 μm), alter crystal shape, and introduce mesoporosity. Given the ubiquitous presence of amorphous precursors in a wide variety of microporous crystals, insight of the SSZ-13 growth mechanism may prove to be broadly applicable to other materials. Moreover, the ability to selectively tailor the physical properties of SSZ-13 crystals through molecular design offers new routes to optimize their performance in a wide range of commercial applications.