ZEOLITES: FROM NATURE TO LABORATORY
Zeolites are hydrated microporous materials present in Nature as alumino-silicate minerals, but they are also largely synthesized in the laboratory. Zeolites consist of tetrahedral units – usually Si (Al, P) O4 – sharing vertices to form a framework characterized by the presence of cages and channels. Thanks to this structural peculiarity, zeolites are considered as nano-molds: a significant part of their structure consists of empty spaces that can be filled by guest molecules. Typically, such cavities contain the cations and water molecules.
PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT
ZAPPING project will exploit the porous template effectiveness of zeolites in inducing aggregation and oligomerization/polymerization along preferential directions, which do not occur under bulk, not confined conditions. This will allow – from the fundamental research side – to understand the basis of molecular physical-chemical phenomena in confined nano-spaces, and – on the technological applications side – to develop devices with enhanced functionalities (i.e. gas sensing devices).
The driving force to promote molecular aggregation, and eventually reaction, in zeolitic inert molds will be pressure. The idea of exploiting pressure as a tool to obtain confined small-sized supramolecular systems (“hyperconfinement”) is innovative and challenging and will open the way to the synthesis of materials that cannot be obtained in standard conditions.
The polymerization of hydrocarbons will be targeted, to give conductive polymers able to be integrated in functional devices such as gas sensors for environmental purposes;
The goals of the project go beyond the design of size- and shape-controlled nanosystems, whose structure and properties can be tuned by pressure. In fact, conceiving tailor-made materials, such as those aforementioned, represents by itself a breakthrough in the field of the synthesis and organization of supramolecular nanosystems.