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Molecular Separations: New artificial sieve traps molecules

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11:43am, October 2, 2002

Just as a fishing net can catch big fish while letting small ones through, natural, porous minerals called zeolites can ensnare certain molecules while letting others swim free. Now, researchers have created a metal-laced organic solid that they say mimics zeolites and could outperform them for certain industrial and laboratory uses.

Zeolites can soak up liquid or gas molecules and also catalyze chemical reactions. They're used in petroleum refining, removal of water from organic solvents, and other industrial processes. These minerals sometimes appear in far more visible roles, such as in a small packet of desiccant that reduces humidity inside a shoebox.

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