This is more about the librarian life than the mineral group of zeolites. The library where I used to work got this reference question to find out about this substance that’s used in various commercial products, including, I’m told, dialysis machines. Since I am usually seeking the opportunity to broaden my horizons, and the question was near the top of the queue, I took it.
I discovered that the website of the United States Geological Survey has a National Minerals Information Center. From the page I needed: “Zeolites are hydrated aluminosilicates of the alkaline and alkaline-earth metals.” Yeah, right.
“Natural and synthetic zeolites are used commercially because of their unique adsorption, ion-exchange, molecular sieve, and catalytic properties. Major markets for natural zeolites are pet litter, animal feed, horticultural applications (soil conditioners and growth media), and wastewater treatment.”
I also checked with this site, which indicated that zeolites “are built of corner-linked tetrahedra and contain exchangeable cations.” Yet, an hour and a half later, I was not only finished, I knew I had useful information.
“In 2018, six companies in the United States operated nine zeolite mines and produced an estimated 95,000 tons of natural zeolites, a 15% increase from that of 2017… New Mexico was estimated to be the leading natural zeolite-producing State in 2018, followed by California, Idaho, Texas, Oregon, and Arizona.
“The top three U.S. companies accounted for approximately 90% of total domestic production. An estimated 93,000 tons of natural zeolites were sold in the United States during 2018, an increase of 14% compared with sales in 2017.” After finishing the inquiry, I went into the office of the library director and said, “I have no real idea what I just researched, but I know it’s good stuff.”
Sometimes being a librarian means working on questions for which you have no feel, no particular interest. Just focus on the bottom line, and ignore sentences such as “The most common [zeolites] are analcime, chabazite, clinoptilolite, erionite, ferrierite, heulandite, laumontite, mordenite, and phillipsite.”
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