The benefits of using kaolin as a source of aluminosilicate in zeolite synthesis to obtain lower-cost catalysts, adsorbents, or ion exchangers are widely known. Previous attempts to produce zeolite from natural Iranian kaolin resulted in the formation of zeolites A, X, and HS. Zeolite Y plays an important role in the petrochemical industry due to its application in the area of fluidized catalytic cracking; ~40% of gasoline production is obtained using this process.
In the present study, different methods were used to prepare pure zeolite NaY from the Iranian kaolin available. The effects of different parameters such as aging time, crystallization time, kaolin calcination and crystallization temperature, and starting-material composition were investigated in order to obtain improved properties and maximize phase purity. In all cases, the crystal structure and microstructure were studied using X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Among different synthesis approaches, the ‘guide-agent method’ resulted in the formation of zeolite NaY. The synthesis was generally sensitive to changes in kaolin calcination temperature and in hydrothermal synthesis parameters. The optimum parameters to prepare pure zeolite NaY were: kaolin calcination temperature = 680°C, aging time of guide agent = 48 h without an overall gel aging step, and crystallization at 90°C for 36 h.