While many intersections between 3D printing and science research has focused on either exploring new materials or making something from the shape/structural qualities, the Cronin Group at the University of Glasgow have been doing very interesting things with 3D printed objects as containers — producing reaction vessels to seal in and incubate chemical processes at a crucial moment, for later extraction. The results could replace much more expensive tools and processes to permit high-yield/low-volume production of chemical products that would otherwise be unobtainable for some researchers and lab environments. (For a few details about the fascinating work of chemistry innovator Lee Cronins and the Cronin Group, check out the TEDx video below as well!)
Innovative 3D Printed Solution Pint-sized, High-Yield Chemical Reaction Vessels, featured this past week in RSC Chemistry World. Via 3DPrinterWorld.
Performing hot chemistry in plastic reaction vessels may sound perverse, but UK researchers have shown that it is possible to carry out a range of hydrothermal chemical syntheses in sealed reactors made from 3D printed polypropylene.
The approach enables sealed lab-scale reactors of, for example, 1ml or 2 ml capacity to be printed, with the possibility to scale up to bigger vessels as required. It also allows the printing of grids of sealed chambers – in the new work a 5×5 array was fabricated – for high-throughput screening of reactants and conditions. Normally, for the type of reaction under (hydrothermal synthesis involving heating mixtures at up to 140˚C for many hours) expensive precision-machined stainless steel autoclave bombs are usually needed. The new work could make such experiments far less costly and more accessible to less well-resourced labs.
The work was led by Lee Cronin and Ross Forgan at the University of Glasgow, who had already pioneered the use of 3D printing for creating reactionware of specific geometrical configurations to help control the chemistry within. ‘I wanted to know if we could extend the idea of using 3D printing to make compartments that could tolerate heat,’ says Cronin. ‘What about solvothermal chemistry?’
Using polypropylene, the team first partly printed the vessels. ‘We then pause it in the middle, add the reagents, finish the printing so that the reagents are sealed inside, and put it in the oven,’ Cronin says. After heating at an appropriate temperature and time, the vessel is removed, drilled or cut open and the products removed….
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