Jim Vicens

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Andrew R. Teixeira, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Michael T. Timko, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John A. Bergendahl, Committee Member




Zeolites are porous aluminosilicates that occur both naturally and synthetically, having numerous applications in catalysis, adsorption and separations. Despite over a half century of characterization and synthetic optimization of hundreds of frameworks, the exact mechanism of synthesis remains highly contested, with crystallization typically occurring under transport-limited regimes. In this work, a microcrystallization reactor working under segmented oscillatory flow has been designed to produce a semi-continuous flow of zeolite A. The fast injection of the reactants in a mixing section forms droplets of aqueous precursors in a stream of paraffin, dispersing microdroplets and avoiding any clog from occurring in the system. The crystallization occurred in the system at atmospheric pressure and isothermal conditions (65ºC). This allowed for a rather slow crystallization kinetics which was important to study and highlight the different crystallization mechanisms between flow and batch synthesis. The morphology, size distributions, crystallinity, and porosity were examined by ex-situ characterization of the samples by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and N2 Physisorption to support the conclusions drawn. The size distribution of the particles achieved in the flow reactor was conclusively narrower than the distribution achieved in the batch reactor. The average size of the crystals for both synthesis methods is reported as 400 nm and the crystallinity achieved was comparable between the two. However, the morphology was quite different between the two systems, the flow products having a much higher mesoporosity due to the presence of crystal aggregates at high crystallinity when compared to the batch crystals. Finally, extended crystallization times leads to a decline of the crystallinity of the product, which might be explained by the metastable state of zeolites in solution.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





continuous synthesis, flow crystallization, Heterogeneous catalysis, LTA NaA, microfluidic, zeolites