Keratin, an ideal protein substance for use in 3D printers


Surely if you are a fan of fitness or if you just like sports and you usually practice it regularly, surely on some occasion you have heard of a substance like keratin as it is often used in health and cosmetology products. On the other hand, the fact that it is used for this type of product does not mean that it does not offer other kinds of utilities, in the specific case of keratin, it is also used to eliminate contaminants present in water and even for the development of polymeric materials.

With this in mind, today I want us to talk about a recent study carried out by researchers from the Department of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology of the Technological Institute of Querétaro jointly directed by specialists Ana Laura Martínez Hernández and Carlos Velasco Santos, in which they are investigating the properties offered by the inclusion of keratin in different synthetic materials such as polymethylmethacrylate, polypropylene, polyurethanes ...

The use of keratin in the manufacture of filament for 3D printing can bring many advantages

As one of the spokespersons for the research group explains:

We have used this keratin in applications such as the production of polymer-based composites. It is very compatible with synthetic polymer due to its hydrophobic nature, that is, water repellent. This facilitates the dispersion of the fibers and the matrices. We are also developing composites processed by 3D printing with a polylactic acid matrix and reinforcement of keratin materials with relevant changes in thermomechanical properties and thermal conductivity.

What we sought was to reinforce a natural material, such as potato starch and crustacean chitosan with this keratin. We first worked them in the laboratory and then on a semi-industrial level, using extrusion to compare properties that increased by up to two thousand percent. In the post-doctorate I am using polylactic acid (PLA) and keratin in 3D printing but now with rabbit hair.

We also study its usefulness for wastewater treatment; In this sense, keratin has functional groups derived from amino acids, they are the sites where different pollutants such as heavy metals are fixed, including hexavalent chromium (Cr), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni) and some hydrocarbons.

Carbon materials in their oxidized and crude versions, as well as functionalized with other chemical groups and larger chains have been used in the development of composites, nanocomposites, multiscale and multidimensional composites in polymeric matrices where polymers such as epoxies have been used. Nylon, chitosan-starch and polylactic acid, processed and synthesized by various methods ranging from casting, injection, extrusion, 3D printing, electrospinning and curing in situ, have thermal, electrical and mechanical properties, depending on the matrix used.

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