Led by chemistry professor Matthew Hartings from American University, the researchers demonstrated how to use commercial 3D printers to create a structure with active chemistry.
They designed a small sponge-like plastic matrix by dispersing chemically active titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles through same filament that are used in the printing process of 3D-printed figures.
The team found that the pollutants break down when natural light interacts with TiO2, which has potential applications in the removal of pollution from air, water and agricultural sources.
"Its 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 a polymer to print," Hartings said.
To demonstrate pollution mitigation, they placed the matrix in water and added an organic molecule (pollutant). The pollutant was destroyed.
Harnessing the power of 3D-printing, the researchers' are already working on printing many exotic shapes to understand how printed structure affects the chemical reactivity, said the study published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials.