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Roomy clays host molecular guests.

Whether molded into bricks, shaped into pottery or added to paper, paint, plastics or rubber, all kinds of clay share a common trait: They consist of layers stacked like a deck of cards. To expand clay's utility, materials scientists have now expanded the spacing between the layers. This remodeled clay can host "guest" molecules that alter the material's properties, says Thomas J. Pinnavaia of Michigan State University in East Lansing. Clays that capture large molecules and help speed their breakdown could perform the same function as the zeolite crystals used in petroleum refining, he adds.

Pinnavaia and his students have remodeled two types of clay by propping their layers apart with molecular pillars. In one case, they made a "supergallery" pillared clay by inserting a positively charged metal ion between negatively charged clay layers. This created spaces, or "galleries," five times larger than the width of the clay "floors," he says.

But the researchers ran into difficulties when they tried to make the galleries even bigger. The pillars, if tall and abundant enough, tended to migrate and bunch together, cluttering up the gallery, Pinnavaia says. He now plans to pack the pillars in an organic surfactant to keep them apart as they settle between the layers. Burning off the surfactant should leave plenty of space in between.
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Title Annotation:remodeled clay
Author:Pennisi, Elizabeth
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 14, 1991
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