Published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, a recent report has revealed that Washington DC’s American University’s researchers have created a sponge-like matrix with the potential to eliminate pollutants. The object has been created using a commercial 3D printer.
It is the first time when researchers have come up with a plastic matrix with active chemistry. In other cases, 3D printers are known for producing things that can be put to different applications if power is applied to them. But, when it comes to commercial printers, the material formed is in itself an inactive thermoplastic or resin.
Chemist Prof. Matthew Hartings lead the team, which initially included nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) in a traditional liquified ABS thermoplastic. TiO2 has the power to split pollutants once they react with natural light. Therefore, it is put to use in trial self-cleaning clothes.
The scientists created a filament using the TiO2/ABS mixture which was later extruded and toughened, similar to spools of filaments used by hobbyists. This filament was, then, put in a regular printer to print the matrix.
Following the same, the team put the structure in a water sample carrying an organic pollutant. As soon as it reacted with ambient light, it ended up neutralizing the pollutant in no time. The only factor that limits the study is that the nanoparticles concentration needs to be below 10% of the total mass of the structure.
Now, the team is studying more complex matrix shapes along with other active chemical additives which could be put to use in other applications.