Researchers develop 3-D printing substrate w…

Researchers develop 3-D printing substrate with dynamic bonds for adjustable properties

Fantastic shapes can be made using 3-D printing, but for many applications the material used needs to be much stronger than what is currently available. This is something that chemists in Eindhoven are working on: “The material used by the current generation of 3-D printers is similar to spaghetti. We’re making spaghetti that sticks together like Velcro.”

“The research we are doing is somewhat generic, whereas in Maastricht it is more application based. That is evident from their presentations, which feature images of animals that have been cut open,” says Hans Heuts. His voice betrays a mild sense of horror, causing his colleague Rint Sijbesma to laugh out loud. Not a single drop of blood runs from their own research at the chemistry faculty of the Eindhoven University of Technology, even though it is ultimately applied in the 3-D printing of prosthetics and implants. There is an area where they and their Maastricht colleagues do have something in common, though: the groups of researchers are both developing new plastics and gels based on dynamic chemical bonds. These are chemical compounds in a substance that easily separate and yet easily rebond.

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Bottles made of lignocellulose, perfumes mad…

Bottles made of lignocellulose, perfumes made from apples

Many companies are working on materials that would be as light and resistant as plastic but at the same time fully biodegradable. What if they could be made from… rubbish? A modern, ecological (waste-free—the conversion of raw material to product reaches 100%) and economical (does not require high temperatures or expensive catalysts) method of obtaining organic monomers is coming into being at the IPC PAS.

It’s hard to imagine our modern world without plastics, but the plastic we know today also poses a great threat. It litters practically all corners of the earth—it can be found in the depths of the Mariana Trench as well as on Mount Everest. Each one of us, in one way or another, consumes 5 grams of plastic every week—that’s enough for a credit card—and these are not compounds that are neutral to our health.

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janeandersonmapractice: Bio Charcoal Tests #5-…


Bio Charcoal Tests #5-10

Below are the results of more bio tests. I’m trying to get through all of the restology/davies bio-composites recipes, so I can make a informed choice which one suits the various applications I intend to use them for. So far the best texture has still been the first one, but I want to be thorough, test them all and add to this list of recipes. Again there are so many variable factors such as drying time and heat affecting the tests, so I haven’t been able to repeat the winning combination thus far.  

  1. Test #5 –  For this recipe I used 5g ground charcoal (blitzed in a coffee grinder), 100ml water, 25g gelatine, 10g of glycerol.  This is the least amount of charcoal out of the all of the recipes and the texture has been influenced by the ratio.  The texture is extremely glossy and shiny, not really what I’m looking for in my final outcomes. I really want to celebrate the matt texture of the material.  
  2. Test #6 – A repeat of the test one, however the texture is completely different this time around, which I believe is because of the larger surface area.
  3. Test #7 – 35g charcoal, 100ml of water, 16g gelatine, 10g of glycerol. I’ve increased the amount of charcoal on previous tests. I used a mixed of finer ground and some larger chunks ground with a pestle and mortar. I had the expectation that this would be the most successful sample to date. It took much longer to dry in the print room drying rack, so this had to be left over night. A minor breakthrough; I’ve now become aware that the samples are best dried naturally!! The heated drying racks keep the materials moist for much longer or they dry glossy. 
  4. Test #8 as above with peppermint essential oil, to hide the smell of gelatine. It worked
  5. Test #9 with the addition of ground rosemary. Not successful as essential oil.
  6. Test #10 – Repeat of 7, this time with a double surface area. I’m starting to sprinkle ground charcoal on top of the more moist areas where it hasn’t spread evenly across the baking sheet.

Left these samples 7-10 to dry naturally for 48 hours in a controlled environment. They dried much harder than expected them to and have no flexibility so unfortunately can’t be rolled in the cylindrical forms. Sadly it’s back to the drawing board to find a balance in increasing the charcoal quantity so to maximise the conductivity, but also having a material that is shapeable. This might be achievable with a finer grind still, so that the particles distribute more evenly in the cook. 

janeandersonmapractice: Charcoal Bioplastic – …


Charcoal Bioplastic – Test #4

This is test four. This has a greater degree of glycerol than previous recipes. As you can see, it’s very flexible and has almost a shiny almost pvc/latex quality. It’s way too bendy to be formed into cylindrical shapes, but I could see the potential in other uses. 

janeandersonmapractice: Charcoal Bioplastics T…


Charcoal Bioplastics Tests

Here’s a few shots from my first few tests. I’ve used a formula/recipe from Clare Davies’ Restology project that she conducted with FabLab, Barcelona. There’s tons that you learn on the job conducting these tests and there can be enormous variables (environment, heat, drying time, texture, flexibility etc) even if you use a similar amount of each material. 

  1. Test #1 –  For this recipe I used 16g ground charcoal (roughly bashed with a rolling pin), 100ml water, 16g gelatine, 16g of glycerol.  After pouring it in to the silicone mould, I left it to dry over the weekend. I came back to a beautiful looking matt texture, that highlighted every detail of the charcoal. It also had a surprising amount of flexibility and is conductive. There’s only one downside to test 1 – it has a slight meaty (porky) smell, even though charcoal it supposed reduce odours. With this in mind, I swapped out the gelatine for agar in subsequent tests. 
  2. Test #2 – 25g charcoal (finer grind with a coffee grinder), 100ml of water, 15g Agar. Once again poured this into moulds and left to dry. This version started to split as it dried, and once it was fully dry it crumbled into lots of flakey pieces (see pic 4).  Quite clear that without the addition of glycerol it didn’t bind as well.
  3. Test #3 – 25g charcoal, 100ml of water, 10g Agar, 15g Agar. This test took quite some time to dry and appeared to have a more flexibility. Once fully dried it also started to crack. As much as I do not wish to use gelatine to make a more natural product, I feel that I might need to proceed with it as it has proved the most successful binding agent.

At the start of these tests, I used charcoal sticks that could be found at any art shop – but at £5 a pack for minute quantity, I knew I would have to look for a way of procuring bulk amounts to create a large scale piece. I contacted the Coates to see if there was the potential to partner with them and use  any waste offcuts from their willow charcoal production, however they produce no waste. So I managed to find bulk bags of activated charcoal that are used as filters in aquatics – which in fact has an even greater conductivity to artists charcoal.

janeandersonmapractice: Seaweed Collecting Sea…


Seaweed Collecting

Seaweed is in abundance on the shores on UK coastlines and could present a sustainable source for bioplastics. This week I went seaweed collecting at Black Rock Sands, Porthmadog in Wales. I’ve been using a mix of gelatine or agar (a vegetarian algae) substitute to bind my bioplastic materials but I’m really intrigued by the textures and the possibilities of binding this with the other materials I’m currently using to allow for a greater flexibility – this is a core property of seaweed. Black Rock Sands is a huge beach with really fine sands, not quite black as one would imagine by the name. There was a myriad of fascinating patterns where the sand and the sea meet which I might incorporate using somehow – either as a pattern to a product. There was a large amount of egg wrack (scophyllum nodosum) seaweed in rock pools. This provides shelter for many species on rocky shores. I’m yet to identify all of the seaweed I collected, so more on that later.



There are so many innovations going on using waste material and leftovers and The Shellworks is a fine example. Four students from the RCA have developed a series of machines that have been turning waste lobster shells into bioplastics. This is a great demonstration of the whole process and has given me a few ideas of what I’d like to develop to document my material tests.

Magnetic ‘springs’ break down ma…

Magnetic ‘springs’ break down marine microplastic pollution

Plastic waste that finds its way into oceans and rivers poses a global environmental threat with damaging health consequences for animals, humans, and ecosystems. Now, using tiny coil-shaped carbon-based magnets, researchers in Australia have developed a new approach to purging water sources of the microplastics that pollute them without harming nearby microorganisms. Their work appears July 31 in the journal Matter.

“Microplastics adsorb organic and metal contaminants as they travel through water and release these hazardous substances into aquatic organisms when eaten, causing them to accumulate all the way up the food chain” says senior author Shaobin Wang, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Adelaide (Australia). “Carbon nanosprings are strong and stable enough to break these microplastics down into compounds that do not pose such a threat to the marine ecosystem.”

Although often invisible to the naked eye, microplastics are ubiquitous pollutants. Some, such as the exfoliating beads found in popular cosmetics, are simply too small to be filtered out during industrial water treatment. Others are produced indirectly, when larger debris like soda bottles or tires weather amid sun and sand.

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3D printed rocket fuel comparison

James Cook University scientists in Australia are using 3D printing to create fuels for rockets, and using tailor-made rocket motors they’ve built to test the fuels.

JCU lecturer in mechanical engineering Dr Elsa Antunes led the study, which made use of the revolutionary and rapidly advancing 3D printing technology.

The JCU scientists 3D printed fuel grains (solid, plastic-based fuel) for the hybrid rockets using plastics and other materials.

“We wanted to explore the viability of using commercially available 3D printing materials in the manufacture of hybrid rocket fuel grains. We knew that the common plastic Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) has shown promise so we decided to test that against six other compounds,” she said.

Dr Antunes said the use of hybrid fuelled rockets has become almost commonplace. These types of rockets are safer and easier to control than conventional rockets.

“3D printing has meant designers have been able to make more complex geometries for rockets and has also opened up the possibility of using novel fuels to power them,” she said.

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The properties of composites for constructin…

The properties of composites for constructing reliable trains

Composite materials are increasingly popular. One of the primary composite materials for modern structures is glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP), which is commonly used in aviation, modern transport and wind power plants. Scientists of South Ural State University have carried out extensive studies of ballistic properties of GFRP to improve the efficiency of its use.

GFRP is relatively cheap and has high strength. However, practically all well-known results regarding ballistic characteristics of GFRP do not take into account various loads occurring when operating the structures or consider comparatively low-impact loading speeds. At the same time, a more frequently encountered problem is impacts at high speed. The team of scientists from SUSU’s Institute of Engineering and Technology have determined ballistic characteristics of glass fiber reinforced plastic under exposure to operational loads at a high speed of impact loading.

“Often, noses of modern trains, which are produced out of composite materials, are exposed to impacts during the train’s movement. We have studied the influence of the impact force on a plate made of composite material under the normal operational load. We stretched the sample, creating a strained condition, and then determined its ballistic properties in an impact,” says one of the project authors, Mikhail Zhikharev.

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