The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has developed a 3D printing process that creates a chemically active catalytic object in a single step, opening the door to more efficient ways to produce catalysts for complex chemical reactions in a wide scope of industries.
While 3D printing has found applications in many areas, its use as a way to control chemical reactions, or catalysis, is relatively new. Current production of 3D catalysts typically involves various methods of depositing the chemically active agents onto pre-printed structures.
The Ames Laboratory method combines the structure with the chemistry in only one step using inexpensive commercial 3D printers. The structures are designed in a computer and built directly by shining a laser through a bath of customized resins that polymerize and harden layer-by-layer. The final product that emerges has catalytic properties already intrinsic to the object.
The catalysts built with this method demonstrated success in several reactions common to organic chemistry. They are also adaptable with further post-processing, making possible multi-step reactions.