Geopolymers, a class of X-ray amorphous, ceramic-like aluminosilicate materials are produced at ambient temperatures through a process called geopolymerization. Due to both low energy requirement during synthesis and interesting mechanical and chemical properties, geopolymers are grabbing enormous attention. Although geopolymers have a broad range of applications including thermal/acoustic insulation and waste immobilization, they are always prepared in monolithic form. The primary aim of this study is to produce new nanostructured materials from the geopolymerization process, including porous monoliths and powders.
In view of the current interest in porous geopolymers for non-traditional applications, it is becoming increasingly important to develop synthetic techniques to introduce interconnected pores into the geopolymers. This study presents a simple synthetic route to produce hierarchically porous geopolymers via a reactive emulsion templating process utilizing triglyceride oil. In this new method, highly alkaline geopolymer resin is mixed with canola oil to form a homogeneous viscous emulsion which, when cured at 60 °C, gives a hard monolithic material. During the process, the oil in the alkaline emulsion undergoes a saponification reaction to decompose into water-soluble soap and glycerol molecules which are extracted to yield porous geopolymers. Nitrogen sorption studies indicates the presence of mesopores, whereas the SEM studies reveals that the mesoporous geopolymer matrix is dotted with spherical macropores. The method exhibits flexibility in that the pore structure of the final porous geopolymers products can be adjusted by varying the precursor composition.
In a second method, the geopolymerization process is modified to produce highly dispersible geopolymer particles, by activating metakaolin with sodium silicate solutions containing excess alkali, and curing for short duration under moist conditions. The produced geopolymer particles exhibit morphology similar to carbon blacks and structured silicas, while also being stable over a wide pH range.
Finally, highly crystalline hierarchical faujasite zeolites are prepared by yet another modification of the geopolymerization process. In this technique, the second method is combined with a saponification reaction of triglyceride oil. The resulting hierarchical zeolites exhibit superior CO2-sorption properties compared to equivalent commercially available and currently reported materials. Additionally, the simplicity of all three of these techniques means they are readily scalable.