What is a Zeolite?

Two Kinds of Zeolites: Natural and Synthetic

Synthetic and natural zeolites are hydrated aluminosilicates with symmetrically stacked alumina and silica tetrahedra which result in an open and stable three-dimensional honeycomb structure with a negative charge. The negative charge within the pores is neutralized by positively charged ions (cations) such as sodium. Over 150 zeolite structural types have been identified.

The simplest synthetic zeolite is the zeolite A with a molecular ration of one silica to one alumina to one sodium cation. The zeolite A synthesis produces precisely duplicated sodalite units which have 47% open space, ion exchangeable sodium, water of hydration and electronically charged pores. These properties lead to the various uses of natural and synthetic zeolites.

Biggest Differences Between Natural and Synthetic Zeolites:

  • Synthetics are manufactured from energy consuming chemicals and naturals are processed from natural ore bodies.
  • Synthetic zeolites have a silica to alumina ratio of 1 to 1 and clinoptilolite (clino) zeolites have a 5 to 1 ratio.
  • Clino natural zeolites do not break down in a mildly acid environment, where synthetic zeolites do. The natural zeolite structure has more acid resistant silica to hold its structure together. The clino natural zeolite is broadly accepted for use in the agricultural industry as a soil amendment and as a feed additive.