Molecular sieves are crystalline metal aluminosilicates having a threedimensional interconnecting network of silica and alumina tetrahedra. Natural water of hydration is removed from this network by heating to produce uniform cavities which selectively adsorb molecules of a specific size.
A 4 to 8-mesh sieve is normally used in gasphase applications, while the 8 to 12-mesh type is common in liquidphase applications. The powder forms of the 3A, 4A, 5A and 13X sieves are suitable for specialized applications.
Long known for their drying capacity (even to 90°C), molecular sieves have recently demonstrated utility in synthetic organic procedures, frequently allowing isolation of desired products from condensation reactions that are governed by generally unfavorable equilibria. These synthetic zeolites have been shown to remove water, alcohols (including methanol and ethanol), and HCl from such systems as ketimine and enamine syntheses, ester condensations, and the conversion of unsaturated aldehydes to polyenals.