A 3D printed hydrogel structure can absorb metal pollutants in water significantly faster than solid alternatives.

a running water tap

Clean and fresh water is essential for human life, and water is a necessity to agricultural and other industries. However, global population growth and pollution from industrial waste has put a strain in local fresh water resources.

 hydrogel showing polymer chains

A hydrogel is made up of polymer chains that are hydrophilic (attracted to water) and are known for being highly absorbent.

Current clean-up costs can be extremely expensive, leaving poorer and more remote populations at risk to exposure of metal pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and copper, which can lead to severe effects on the neurological, reproductive and immune systems.

Now, a group of scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, US, have developed a 3D printable hydrogel that is capable of 95% metal removal within 30 minutes.

brushing teeth gif

Originally posted by biscuitsarenice

Clean water is also needed for one’s hygiene, including brushing your teeth and bathing.

The hydrogel is made from a cheap, abundant biopolymer chitosan and diacrylated pluronic, which forms cDAP. The cDAP mixture is then loaded into the printer as a liquid and allowed to cool to <4⁰C, before rising again to room temperature to form a gel that can be used to produce various 3D printed shapes.

The Dallas team also tested the reusability of their hydrogel and found that it had a recovery rate of 98% after five cycles of use, proving it to be a potentially reliable resource to communities with limited fresh water supply.

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Life without clean water. Video: charitywater

‘This novel and cost-effective approach to remove health and environmental hazards could be useful for fabricating cheap and safe water filtration devices on site in polluted areas without the need for industrial scale manufacturing tools,’ the paper reads.