Chemically active structure created with standard polymer and 3D printer

Materials World magazine
13 Apr 2016

Researchers have incorporated nanoparticles into a readily available filament to create a pollution-mitigating structure.

3D printing is already widely used to make structures from thermoplastics, glass, metals, ceramics and even sugars. Now, a research team has demonstrated that commercially available 3D printers can be used to print structures with an active chemistry, too.

In a study published in April in Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, chemists at American University, Washington, DC, created a 3D structure incorporating titanium dioxide nanoparticles that can mitigate pollution.

Incorporating the nanoparticles into a standard thermoplastic filament and printer, they aimed to find out whether the nanoparticles would remain active in the structure once printed, and whether the matrix would perform the task of pollution mitigation. The answer to both questions was yes.

The researchers placed the matrix in water and added an organic pollutant, which was duly destroyed. The TiO2 also photocatalysed the degradation of a rhodamine 6G dye in solution.

Lead researcher, Matthew Hartings noted, ‘It’s not just pollution, but there are all sorts of other chemical processes that people may be interested in. There are a variety of nanoparticles one could add to the polymer to print.’

In order to print, the concentration of nanoparticles had to be less than 10% of the total mass, which could limit some applications. The team is now beginning work to print more complex shapes to examine how the structure affects its chemical reactivity.