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Zeolite explained

What are zeolites?

Zeolites are aluminosilicates. In other words, a type of mineral made out of aluminium, silicon and oxygen. They can be found naturally and then mined, or they can be manufactured synthetically. The structure of these compounds is unique, and they are completely different to any other class of tanning chemical. A synthetic zeolite can be made to possess a completely unique structure that has not yet been discovered in nature. It also means that a unique synthetic zeolite structure showing great potential as a leather chemical, which cannot be sourced in nature, can be made in a factory in a highly renewable manner. The building blocks of the zeolite are silica and alumina, which can be recycled in a circular manner to create future materials.

Leather tanning with zeolites

Zeolites have a unique property in that they can absorb or release water, depending on the temperature. Water absorption is an important part of leather comfort, and a tannage that allows water absorption (without swelling) is a desirable characteristic.

There are eight main groups of zeolite minerals that occur naturally. Two major types of zeolite, named zeolite A and zeolite X, are produced synthetically and widely commercialised. These synthetic versions can be modified by adding an organic acid, to produce the unique zeolites that can be used in the tanning process.

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