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ORNL: Naturally derived materials for 3D printing

The presence of minerals called ash in plants has little effect on the suitability of new, naturally derived composite materials for additive manufacturing, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has found.

When mixed with polylactic acid, fibers sourced from corn stover and switchgrass yielded biocomposites with satisfactory properties for 3D printing. In fact, the presence of ash spheres appeared to improve the flow of material for extrusion printing, said ORNL’s Xianhui Zhao.

“We went as high as 12% ash content on our corn stover biocomposite and found mechanical properties like stress and strain tolerance and tensile strength to be acceptable,” Zhao said.

“The research enables a use for high-ash biomass residue from biorefining that could lower the overall cost of producing sustainable fuels and materials. Next steps include exploring more biomass materials and testing the composites in a large-volume printer at ORNL”, Stephanie Seay commented.

Find out more about Oak Ridge National Laboratory at

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