Mar 21, 2018 | By Benedict

Researchers in Italy have developed a 3D printable recycled material that can actively cut pollutants in air and wastewater. Like the more expensive activated carbon, the new 3D printable material can capture particulate matter, and could be used in water filtration systems.

Activated carbon, sometimes known as activated charcoal, is a form of carbon whose low-volume pores give it a high level of adsorption—adsorption being the process of holding molecules on a thin surface film, different to absorption, which involves the entire volume of a material.

This form of carbon has many uses, including the treatment of poisoning in humans, and its environmental applications include removing pollutants from air and water, even creating highly effective water filtration systems.

Given the somewhat miraculous powers of activated carbon, it’s no surprise that the substance doesn’t come cheap.

And that’s why scientists in Italy have created a new, low-cost alternative to activated carbon made from solid wastes and natural polymers. They say the new substance, which can be 3D printed, jetted, or applied in other ways, actually performs better than activated carbon in many ways.

Synthesized inexpensively from solid wastes and a naturally abundant polymer, this planet-friendly material has the potential to adsorb what is called particulate matter—particles and droplets emitted by power plants, cars, and other polluters.

This particulate matter is everywhere, not just in industrial areas, and is toxic to animals, plants, and people.

(Image: Zanoletti, Vassura, Venturini, Monai, Montini, Federici, Zacco, Treccani and Bontempi)

Because of the cost of activated carbon, the Italian researchers (from the University of Brescia, University of Bologna, and University of Trieste, as well as industrial equipment company Petroceramics) combined two cheap materials to make an alternative.

Those two materials are a naturally abundant raw material called sodium alginate (that can be extracted from seaweed and algae), and a high-volume industrial by-product called silica fume.

The adsorbent produced by mixing these two easily obtainable materials is purportedly better than activated carbon at capturing particulate matter, and can also be used for wastewater remediation.

To synthesize the eco-friendly adsorbent, the researchers used the decomposition of food-grade sodium-bicarbonate (baking soda) to consolidate the alginate.

During testing, the hybrid material was able to adsorb and remove a model pollutant (methylene blue dye), even at high concentrations, with 94 percent efficiency. The researchers found that production of the hybrid material consumed less energy than production of activated carbon, while leaving a much lower carbon footprint.

So this material is cheap and easy to make, effective at what it does, and produces minimal energy during its production. Its applications are numerous, too: it could be used to trap diesel exhaust fumes, to filter water, and could even be 3D printed to create additively manufactured pollutant-adsorbing structures.

The researchers say the material was developed “on the basis of The European Commission's request to develop an affordable, sustainable, and innovative design-driven material solution that can reduce the concentration of particulate matter in urban areas.”

The research, “A New Porous Hybrid Material Derived From Silica Fume and Alginate for Sustainable Pollutants Reduction,” has been published in Frontiers in Chemistry.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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