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A large-cavity zeolite with wide pore windows and potential as an oil refining catalyst


Crude oil is an important feedstock for the petrochemical industry and the dominant energy source driving the world economy, but known oil reserves will cover demand for no more than 50 years at the current rate of consumption1. This situation calls for more efficient strategies for converting crude oil into fuel and petrochemical products. At present, more than 40% of oil conversion is achieved using catalysts based on faujasite; this zeolite requires extensive post-synthesis treatment to produce an ultrastable form2,3, and has a large cavity accessible through four 0.74-nm-wide windows and thus limits the access of oil molecules to the catalytically active sites. The use of zeolites with better accessibility to their active sites should result in improved catalyst efficiency. To date, two zeolites with effective pore diameters exceeding that of faujasite have been reported4,5, but their one-dimensional pore topology excludes use in oil refining. Similarly, zeolites with large pores and a three-dimensional pore topology have been reported6,7,8, but in all these materials the pore openings are smaller than in faujasite. Here we report the synthesis of ITQ-21, a zeolite with a three-dimensional pore network containing 1.18-nm-wide cavities, each of which is accessible through six circular and 0.74-nm-wide windows. As expected for a zeolite with this structure, ITQ-21 exhibits high catalytic activity and selectivity for valuable products in preliminary oil refining tests.

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Figure 1: Rietveld refinement of ITQ-21.
Figure 2: Perspective view of the unit cell of ITQ-21.
Figure 3: Infrared spectra of Al-ITQ-21.


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We thank J. L. Jordá for partial analyses for the structure determination and for discussions. J.R. thanks the “D. Gral de Investigación” of the MCYT for support. This work was supported by the CICYT.

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Correspondence to Avelino Corma.

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Corma, A., Díaz-Cabañas, M., Martínez-Triguero, J. et al. A large-cavity zeolite with wide pore windows and potential as an oil refining catalyst. Nature 418, 514–517 (2002).

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