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Some Frequently Asked Questions About Zeolite

 

What are zeolites?

Zeolites are a family of natural and synthetic crystalline materials which can absorb and desorb water, and which can exchange ions, such as potassium ions, with their surroundings.

 

What is ion exchange?

Chemicals that dissolve in water as electrically charged units are called "ions". The term for trading ions with the surrounding water is "ion exchange". Zeolites were the first known materials capable of ion exchange. Zeolites are useful because the zeolite crystals can trade their internal sodium, potassium, or calcium with other chemicals in their surroundings. From the 1940's onward, synthetic resins captured most of the market for ion exchange materials. However, natural zeolites hold a good portion of the market because of their considerably lower cost.

 

How does ion exchange work in agriculture?

Ion exchange is an important process in soils. The ordinary clays in many agricultural soils have a limited capacity for ion exchange. Plants can obtain nutrients such as nitrogen (ammonium ions) and potassium by exchanging ions with the clays. However, some soils, such as sandy soils and soils in warm or rainy climates, have little or no ion exchange capacity. Adding zeolites as a soil amendment to these soils introduces ion exchange capacity, allowing nutrients to be retained in the soil. In fact, clayey soils improve their ion exchange capacity with zeolite.

 

Can plants get water from zeolites?

Most naturally occurring zeolites have spaces in between the microscopic zeolite crystals that hold useful water for plants.

 

Where do zeolites come from?

Most zeolite deposits are mined from volcanic ash deposits which formed in alkaline lakes. Natural zeolites deposits are commonly found with mineral impurities. Pure synthetic zeolites are manufactured chemicals that cary a cost several times that of natural zeolites.

 

How many kinds of zeolite exist?

About 40 different members of the zeolite family have been found in nature. Of the naturally occurring zeolites, clinoptilolite, commonly called "clino", is particularly useful. Nearly pure deposits of clino, such as the source of Agricolite, are very rare.

 

What are typical uses of clino?

Many uses result from clino's strong affinity for ammonium and other ions:

  • Clino can remove the ammonium from sewage. Sewage treatment with clino helps keep Lake Tahoe from turning green.
  • Clino is useful as pet litter, and commercial farm litter, to remove ammonia odor.
  • Clino relieves ammonia stress in cud chewing animals owing to ammonia build-up in their multiple stomach system.
  • Clino is highly effective in the cleanup of radioactive waste. Clino strongly adsorbs strontium and cesium ions, two of the longest lived radioactive materials. Clino was used in the cleanup of Three Mile Island. Currently, it is fed to the children of Chernobyl.

 

Is clino safe?

Yes. It is harmless to humans and animals.

 

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