Dr Gianmario Scotti, from the Faculty of Pharmacy, has found polypropylene on eBay, and bought a couple of rolls of filament. And after just a handful of developmental phases, the researchers created a microreactor that can be used for mass spectrometry analysis.
The term “microreactor” sounds complicated, but basically it is just a small container with a stir bar for mixing chemical samples and a very thin needle for spraying and ionizing the sample for analysis with a mass spectrometer. In order to place the stir bar and the nanoelectrospray needle in the microreactor the printing process needs to be interrupted, and then resumed.
One of the main novelties of this work is that the stir bar and the ionization tip were inserted during 3D printing – the printer would be stopped mid-work, the stir bar and ionization tip inserted, and the printing resumed. This way, these elements are seamlessly integrated into one unit.
After some trial, error and intense scraping, the researchers found that polypropylene itself is the best platform material, but the temperature of the printed plastic must be carefully regulated.