Binderless Zeolite Monoliths Production with Sacrificial Biopolymers


3D printing has emerged as an attractive way of formulating structured adsorbents, as it imparts lower manufacturing costs compared to hydraulic extrusion while also allowing for unprecedented geometric control. However, binderless structures have not been fabricated by 3D printing, as ink formulation has previously required clay binders which cannot be easily removed. In this study, we report the development of a facile approach to shape engineer binderless zeolites. 3D-printed inks comprised of 13X, 5A, ZSM-5, and experimental South African zeolites were prepared using gelatin and pectin as binding agents along with dropwise addition of various solvents. After printing, the dried monoliths were calcined to remove the biopolymers and form 100% pure zeolite structures. From N2 physisorption and CO2 adsorption measurements at 0 °C, all monoliths showed narrowing below 1 nm from their powders, which was attributed to pore malformation caused by intraparticle bridging during calcination. The various adsorption isotherms indicated that this narrowing led to varying degrees of enhanced adsorption capacities for all three gases, as the slightly smaller pores increased electrostatic binding between the sorbent walls and captured species. Analysis of CO2 adsorption performance revealed comparable diffusivities and adsorption capacities to the commercial bead analogues, implying that biopolymer/zeolite printing can produce contactors which are competitive to commercial benchmarks. The binderless monoliths also exhibited faster diffusivities compared to zeolite monoliths produced by conventional direct ink writing -- on account of an enhancement in macroporosity -- highlighting that this new method enhances the kinetic properties of 3D-printed scaffolds. As such, the sacrificial biopolymer technique is an effective and versatile approach for 3D printing binderless zeolite structures.


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering


The authors acknowledge University of Missouri-University of the Western Caper (UMUWC) Award for financially supporting this project. The involvement of Shane Lawson in this work was sponsored by the National Science Foundation internship program (NSF CBET-1802049).

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Publication Date

01 Mar 2021