A 3D printing process has been developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, and this process is capable of producing a chemically active catalytic object in just one step, thus opening the door to more effective ways to produce catalysts for complex chemical reactions in an extensive scope of industries.
While 3D printing has identified applications in several areas, its use as a way to control catalysis, or chemical reactions, is relatively new. Existing production of 3D catalysts usually involves different methods of depositing the chemically active agents onto pre-printed structures.
The Ames Laboratory method incorporates the structure with the chemistry in just one step by using cost-effective commercial 3D printers. The structures have been designed in a computer and built directly by shining a laser via a bath of customized resins capable of being polymerized and hardened layer-by-layer. The final product that develops comprises of catalytic properties already essential to the object.
“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,”
Sebastián Manzano, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State
The catalysts produced with this method proved to be successful in several reactions common to organic chemistry. They also have the potential to be adaptable with additional post-processing, bringing about multi-step reactions.
We can control the shape of the structure itself, what we call the macroscale features; and the design of the catalyst, the nanoscale features, at the same time this opens up many possibilities to rapidly produce structures custom designed to perform a variety of chemical conversions.
Igor Slowing, a scientist in heterogeneous catalysis at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
This research has been further discussed in the paper “Direct 3D Printing of Catalytically Active Structures,” authored by J. Sebastián Manzano, Zachary B. Weinstein, Aaron D. Sadow, and Igor I. Slowing; and published in ACS Catalysis.