A Brief History of Zeolite.
The first known use for zeolite can be traced back to the third century A.D to Roman aqueduct systems. The Romans utilized zeolite as a form of purification for the many water systems across major cities in their empire.
Fast forward a couple thousand of years to the 1970’s where zeolite was used to filter wastewater and radioactive materials and since this decade, zeolite’s popularity grew. In 1995 NASA utilized the inorganic crystalline solid to grow plants in outer space, also known as a “zeoponic plant growth system.”
Zeolite is a material that naturally occurs in specific types of sedimentary rocks. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, zeolite is a microporous material that is often used as an absorbent or as a water purifier. Because of the material’s porous composition, domestic products like animal feed, odor control, pet litter and water purification make up about 75 percent of zeolite uses. The porous structure can be altered to accommodate different filtration requirements for various scenarios such as removing radioactive waste from water systems.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are over 40 different types of zeolite that have been identified over the past 200 years. Often referred to as an aluminosilicate, zeolite is one of the most useful multi-purpose mineral products on the market today.
The aluminosilicate mineral forms slowly over thousands of years and can crystallize in shallow marine basins or form when volcanic ash and rock layers react with alkaline groundwater. Because of zeolite’s formation process and porous structure, it is rarely found in its pure form and might contain other minerals like quartz, clay or metals.
When observed under a microscope, zeolite has a honeycomb-like molecular structure, which allows the exchange of cations, an ion or group of ions that have a positive charge. Cations, such as Sodium (Na+), Potassium (K+) and Calcium (Ca2+), are readily exchanged and sorted based on the particular zeolite’s channel size. It is through this process that unwanted odors are neutralized.
Over the decades, zeolite has become a valuable commodity in the marketplace and continues to be one of the best ways to filter water and neutralize odors. Zeolite continues to be popular on a global scale as the U.S. Geological Survey has shown an increase in production and trade from 2010-2012.