Adding to the potential of 3D printed objects, research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has proved the ability to make objects with instilled catalytic potential.
By adding this quality to the material, researchers can make devices that facilitate the study of chemical reactions, practical to the synthesis of new chemical products, sensing and controlled substance release.
Conventionally, such objects would be made in a multi-step process, first making or 3D printing the object, then added the active ingredient afterwards. By making these objects in a single swoop, Ames Lab researchers significantly streamline the process, unlocking new potential for 3D printing as fabrication method for catalysts.
The making of bifunctional objects
Material experiments in the Ames Lab study are conducted in a clear resin, using a FormLabs Form 1+TM SLA 3D printer. As a proof on concept, the team 3D printed a collection of geometrically complex objects, including multi scale models of the Ames Lab mascot, and a millifluidic device designed to monitor the reactions of different liquid chemicals running through its core.
Sebastián Manzano, a graduate student at Iowa State and who carried out Ames Lab experiments explains the fabrication process as follows, “The monomers, or building blocks that we start with, are designed to be bifunctional.”
“They react with light to harden into the three-dimensional structure, and still retain active sites for chemical reactions to occur.”
Redefining equipment design
In one example, researchers show an SEM image and molecular scan of a 3D printed mascot with copper particles evenly dispersed throughout its structure.
The knowledge gained from this and other proof of concept models is then used to optimise the design of common lab equipment, i.e. a millifluidic device and cuvette adaptor.
According to the authors, “The adaptor allowed bypassing the limitations of conventional equipment (scattering by solids typically prevents use of solution UV-Visible spectrophotometer for monitoring heterogeneous reactions) providing insight into the mechanistic step where the catalytic effect is most relevant to the conversion,”
“In addition, this approach is useful to directly produce systems with catalytic sites homogeneously dispersed in locations that are difficult to access by other means.”
The paper, “Direct 3D Printing of Catalytically Active Structures”, discussed in this article is published online in the journal ACS Catalysis. It is co-authored by J. Sebastián Manzano, Zachary B. Weinstein, Aaron D. Sadow, and Igor I. Slowing of the Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University.
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Featured image shows 3D printed samples of the Ames Lab logo. Image via ACS Catalysis.