Mesoporous Materials (M41S): From Discovery to Application


Thomas F. Degnan Jr.Research Laboratory, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company

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The quest for new molecular sieves in the late 1980s led Mobil researchers to the discovery of a family of nanostructured mesoporous materials known as M41S. MCM-41 is undoubtedly the best known and most widely studied of this family of materials, each synthesized via a self-assembled liquid crystal mechanism involving sol–gel precursors which form a hexagonally packed rod-shaped micelle structure. The other members of the M41S family are the cubic (MCM-48) and lamellar (MCM-50) forms. This article describes the progression of M41S materials from discovery through characterization and development. ExxonMobil has very recently commercialized MCM-41 for an undisclosed application. Its decade-long journey from initial identification to commercial application is similar in duration to that of many novel materials. Yet there were many unique challenges posed by the synthesis and development of such a novel material. This is its story.