Study Examines Silver Nanoparticles as an Anti-Microbial Addition to 3D Printing Filaments
In a thesis entitled “A Study of 3D Printed Silver-Polymer Composite Structures,” University of New Orleans student Cynthiya Shrestha discusses a material that has been seldom studied in 3D printing: polymers with silver nanoparticles incorporated in them. These materials are potentially very useful because of their antimicrobial, electrical, mechanical and optical properties. They are of special interest to the food industry, Shrestha points out, because of microbes in the polymer belts that are used to transfer and package food items, particularly meat items, in factories. If polymer belts with antimicrobial properties could be developed, it could have a major impact on the industry.
Shrestha created several mixtures of PLA and increasing concentrations of silver nanoparticles, then extruded them into filament using a Filabot filament extruder. She subjected the materials to several tests, including differential scanning calorimetry, tensile testing, and scanning electron microscopy. The silver nanoparticles increased the ductility of the 3D printed structures, due to an increase in strain at failure.
She then used the filament to 3D print several disks, onto which she dripped an E. coli solution. She also added the bacterial solution to plain PLA disks. After 24 hours, the silver composite disks showed dramatically fewer bacteria than the plain PLA disks.
Shrestha’s study is very promising for not just the food industry but several others, including the medical industry. The ability to 3D print surgical tools with antimicrobial properties is always of interest, and silver is a material that, as Shrestha points out, has not been very thoroughly studied in 3D printing, particularly when mixed with polymers. While still in the preliminary stages, her study could potentially have an impact on the creation of new 3D printing materials with highly useful properties.
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January 10, 2019 at 12:51PM