Adsorption - Zeolites are used to adsorb a variety of materials. This includes applications in drying, purification, and separation. They can remove water to very low partial pressures and are very effective desiccants, with a capacity of up to more than 25% of their weight in water. They can remove volatile organic chemicals from air streams, separate isomers and mixtures of gases.
Catalysis - Zeolites can be shape-selective catalysts either by transition state selectivity or by exclusion of competing reactants on the basis of molecular diameter. Zeolites can also be acid catalysts and can be used as supports for active metals or reagents. They have also been used as oxidation catalysts. The main industrial application areas are: petroleum refining, synfuels production, and petrochemical production. Synthetic zeolites are the most important catalysts in petrochemical refineries.
Ion Exchange - The largest volume use for zeolites is in detergent formulations where they have replaced phosphates as water-softening agents. They do this by exchanging the sodium in the zeolite for the calcium and magnesium present in the water.