Scientists are researching the use of high ash biomass residues from biorefining in the production of 3D printing materials

According to scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the presence of minerals called “ash” in plants has little effect on the properties of new complex materials of natural origin intended for the production of 3D printing materials. The researchers found that moderate levels of ash – sometimes found as balls in the biomass – did not significantly affect the mechanical properties of biocomposites consisting of corn straw, switchgrass and thermoplastic PLA. After mixing with polylactic acid, fibers obtained from corn straw and switchgrass gave biocomposites with satisfactory properties in the area of 3D printing. Moreover, the presence of ash balls seems to improve material flow in the heads of FDM/FFF 3D printers.

“We reached 12% ash content in our corn biocomposite and found the mechanical properties such as stress and strain tolerance and tensile strength to be acceptable,” said research team member Xianhui Zhao. The research enables the use of high ash biomass residues from biorefining, which can reduce the total cost of production of sustainable fuels and materials.

Next steps include testing more biomass materials and testing the composites in a high-volume printer at ORNL.


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