Zeolites are micro-porous, aluminosilicate minerals which are primarily utilized commercially as adsorbents and catalysts by the chemical industry. Zeolites can be found naturally as well as manufactured industrially on a large scale. Zeolites are group of hydrated aluminosilicates of alkali or alkaline earth metals, usually lithium, barium, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These chemicals have three dimensional crystalline frameworks of tetrahedral structures of alumina or siliceous anions that are strongly bonded at corners. The zeolite structure essentially contains (–Si–O–Al–) linkages. These linkages form uniform size pores on the surface that enclose internal cavities or channels of homogeneous size and shape. The structure, size and shapes of these pores depend on chemical composition and structural framework of the crystal of the zeolite involved. The pore sizes may range from 2 to 12 Angstroms.
Zeolites have a wide range of domestic applications such as water purification, water softening, catalysis, cracking, absorption and separation of ions among others. It is extensively used by a variety of industries including chemicals, petroleum, nuclear waste disposal, construction, heat and refrigeration, agriculture, biogas and detergents among others. The environment friendly nature of zeolites throughout their lifecycle has earned them support as a substitute for harmful chemicals across various industrial applications.
The regulatory push for waste water treatment is expected to drive the market for waste water treatment chemicals including zeolites. Regulatory authorities across the world are pushing for better wastewater treatment for industrial as well as municipal wastewater over environmental concerns such as ground water toxicity and dead zones in the water bodies. Regulatory bodies such as the United States Environment Protection Agency (U.S.E.P.A) and European body REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) have introduced a strict code of conduct for industrial and municipal waste water treatment before releasing the wastes into the water bodies. Failure to follow these regulations attracts strict penalties which in turn boosts the sales of waste water treatment chemicals.
Zeolites can very efficiently trap and separate the nuclear ions from waste. Zeolites are employed for nuclear waste disposal across the world. The nuclear waste is separated and trapped within the zeolite structure which is then compressed into a ceramic structure and stored. This structure greatly reduces the threat of exposure from harmful radiation emanating from the nuclear wastes. Owing to the above mentioned factors, nuclear industry is expected to generate perpetual demand for the zeolite market.
Furthermore, the rapidly expanding market of detergents in the emerging BRICS nations and the developing countries is anticipated to fuel the demand for zeolites. The rising disposable income of the general population is improving the purchase power parity of general population in these regions, which in turn is adding to the demand for household products such as detergents. Additionally, zeolites are actively utilized as a substitute for sodium phosphates that have been or being phased out of developed regions of North America and Europe. The regulatory authorities in these regions and the general awareness among the public has aided this shift and the substantial demand growth for zeolites. The rising disposable income of the general population is improving the purchase power parity of general population in these regions
Some of the key players in the zeolite market include Arkema, BASF SE, Honeywell International Inc., and Tosoh Corp. Other players in the market are Bear River Zeolite Co. Inc., Blue Pacific Minerals Ltd., Clariant Corp., Tricat Inc., W. R. Grace & Co., Zeolyst International Inc., and ZEOX Corp.