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.
A 3D printing process was developed that creates a chemically active catalytic object in a single step. The 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 monomers, or building blocks, 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.
The catalysts built with this method demonstrated success in several reactions common to organic chemistry. They are also adaptable with further post-processing, making multi-step reactions possible.
The shape of the structure itself can be controlled (macroscale features) as well as the design of the catalyst (nanoscale features) at the same time.