23 June 2024

Use of Photocatalysis in 3D printing


A novel application of solar energy that has garnered significant interest in energy and environmental science is the use of semiconducting materials for photocatalysis. Customized photocatalysts and engineered structural photocatalytic substrates can be produced quickly and affordably with 3D printing, a technique for theragnostic photocatalytic material synthesis. By using 3D printed catalytic photocatalysis, a certain surface area may be expanded with flexibility, and the active component can be precisely positioned.

This is made possible by lowering manufacturing costs and optimising and generating intricate substrate structures. Thus, substrates have a significant impact on light transmission, catalyst quality, and quantity.. The removal of various pollutants from water using photocatalysis has been considered as a promising technology. In order to overcome the shortcomings associated with the traditional photocatalysts include a huge energy band gap and high recombination rate of photo-generated electrons and holes; various types of photocatalysts such as the homojunction, heterojunction, and dual Z scheme Nonetheless, design problems for photocatalytic reactors make it difficult to apply them for real (waste) wastewaters treatment, e.g. recycle, regeneration or disposal of used catalysts.

Recently, 3D printing techniques have been used in the development of new types of fixed-bed reactors. This current review provides an outline of both the advancements and difficulties involved in utilizing different 3D printing techniques (comprising inkjet printing, stereolithography, and also direct ink writing) for generating long-lasting photocatalytic materials intended for (waste) water Additionally, critical discussions with respect to the use of these technologies to design future generations of photocatalytic reactors have been made, and recommendations for follow-up studies have also been presented.

On what principle do photocatalysis function?

Photo catalysis is a process of speeding up of photo responsive material induced chemical reactions by light irradiations. SC can be specifically termed as photoactive materials. Materials with Eg <3.5 eV are termed as semiconductors consisting of VB (valence band) and CB (conduction band). When SC is exposed, the light having enough energy will lead to the promotion of electrons (–) from valence-band to conduction-band, which leave vacancies or positive holes (-h) must overcome the band gap. Redox processes can be initiated by either e-, or h+, on the materials that are found within their media.

For example, the e– excited in the CB might participate in redox reduction reactions of fuel generation; while h+ would be engaged in oxidative degradation of pollutant.

What is the process for designing photocatalysts?

Generally speaking, photocatalysts are heterogeneous systems made up of two phases: an active substance that is finely distributed as nanoparticles and a structurally porous support. In addition to its structural role, this support has the ability to influence the photocatalysts electrical activity and vice versa.

First, crystal size and surface area; then, electrical properties; and last, chemical composition are the physicochemical aspects of the photocatalytic material that determine activity, selectivity, and the kind of residual products to be obtained.

One major advantage of using heterogeneous catalysis over homogeneous catalysis is the simplicity of catalyst recovery after reaction cycles. Other methods of photodegradation are also widely utilized in this field, such as solar-photo Fenton using homogenous photocatalysts, which are light-absorbing photoactive phases dissolved in the reacting solution or supramolecular complexes. Having stated that, we will attempt to focus our discussion on various heterogeneous systems’ economic solutions, as these offer more chances for 3D printing application. The metal oxides, CN, MOFs, and metal sulphides that have been thoroughly reported on are examples of heterogeneous photocatalysts.

What is a 3D printed photocatalytic device?

The common name for such a device is usually a photocatalytic device made of 3D printing material. This is what happens in photocatalysis where a substance which reacts chemically with light is used, known as photocatalysts. This can lead to the design of a 3D printed photocatalytic device for uses like water purification, air purification, and other purposes.

A shaped device could be the word “structured” is a term used to describe something that has a clear, organized, and well-defined system in place. It implies that the subject being referred to has been arranged or put together in a logical and orderly manner. To enhance maximum efficiency of light exposure and reaction with photo catalyst material. For example, common photocatalytic material is TiO2, which upon exposure to light produces reactive oxygen species able to decompose pollutants.

What are the potential uses of 3D printing in the field of photocatalysts?

Photocatalysis finds useful applications for 3D printing that helps in design and printing of photometric systems. Here are some detailed applications:

  • Tailored Geometries: 3D printing enables the ability to make complex photocatalysts with unique shape and structures that are tailored towards different reactions. This is of importance in optimizing surface area and light penetration.
  • Customized Surface Modifications: The versatile nature of 3D printing allows inclusion of different dopants or surface modifications into photocatalysts. Such customization may increase specific catalytic activity or selectivity, which could make these materials superior for some purposes.
  • Multi-material Printing: Printing out multiple materials at once makes for complex photocatalysts where different elements contribute to desired results. A notable instance is the ability to enhance the charge transfer via a semi-conjugation of a semiconductor and a co-catalyst material.
  • Gradient Structures: 3D printing makes it possible for designing photocatalysts with gradients and allows for the variation of specific features deliberately. This helps to provide materials that have varying compositional and surface characteristics gradients which may also improve the catalytic response.
  • Flow Reactors and Microreactors: Therefore, 3D printing could be used as a tool to create complex flow reactors and microreactors intended for photocatalytic processes. It increases mixing and heating/mass transfer, thus optimizing light use and improving reaction rates.
  • Medical Applications: Some of these photocatalytic materials may be applicable for medical sectors like wound healing using 3D printing technology. Under light irradiation, they can generate reactive oxygen species that could promote sterilization and tissue regrowth.
  • Energy Storage and Conversion: Photocatalysts that are 3D-printed could be used in devices like energy storage and conversion. For example, they may be incorporated into photoelectrochemical cells as part of the solar driven water cleavage process that produces hydrogen.
  • Environmental Remediation: Environmental cleanup and customized 3D-printed photocatalysts that target specific pollutants. This helps in effective and specific remediation by enabling structure design depending on the pollutants.
What are the Advantages of 3D printing in photocatalysis?
  • The process of getting objects will be altered through 3D printing as opposed to made up and cut-out pieces of materials that are usually used in manufacturing. Thus, it has reduced quantities of raw materials, working time, energy-consumption, and proportionately fewer CO2 emissions to atmosphere in this adaptive out production stage that has proved to be environmentally friendly. However, unlike the supply chain it does not have to undergo different movements and storing operations as it is possible to print the designed objects right at the point where they are located i.e., without moving anywhere or storing anything.
  • Monolithic catalysts exhibit several benefits for catalysis compared with the packed bed reactor application, and it is exactly there where the large advantages of AM manifest themselves. The rate of heat and mass transport per unit pressure drop, transversal temperature profile, and scale-up facility are some critical issues to be considered in the design of a reactor. These two factors; shape and size are important when designing homogenous catalysts and three-dimension printing provides a wide range of flexibility in modifying such macroscopic aspects.
  • The smaller, less expensive, but more efficient reactors in three-dimensional printing will have an extra advantage of flexibility. As discussed above, they can be made at the laboratory without sophisticated synthesis machines. It is also possible to achieve high precision even while scaling down to the micron range
  • Conclusion:

The promotion of Industry 4.0, also known as the transformation from the old ways of manufacturing into the modern smart manufacturing system will forever require the 3D printed materials for photocatalytic/catalysts design and manufacture including making the scale models, creating the prototypes. Materials science presents an exciting new frontier, photocatalysts. Precisely controlled engineering increases efficiency and selectivity of photocatalytic processes.

This novel approach promises a breakthrough in cleaner energy generation, efficient environmental remediation, and many others. With time research will continue[i] optimizing and bringing through greater innovations leading to a greener and technologically advanced world.


In a 3D perspective, what is photocatalysis?

This process makes use of light sensitive catalysts that are used to start or boost the chemical reaction in order to cure or convert material into a solid state form for each of their layers.

How does photocatalysis improve 3D printing?

Photocatalysis provides a means for accurate management of the curing process, facilitating quicker and more effective layer-by-layer construction in 3D printing.

Which materials can gain advantages from incorporating photocatalysis in the realm of 3D printing?

Photocatalysis enhances the performance of diverse photopolymer resins, enabling the fabrication of intricate and detailed structures.

Can photocatalysis be applied also to 3D printing for environmental benefit?

With this photocatalysis, there could be less used energy and waste materials for 3D printing toward cleaner manufacture practices.

Aguirre-Cortés, J. M., et al. (2023). “3D printing in photocatalysis: Methods and capabilities for the improved performance.” Applied Materials Today 32: 101831.

Li, N., et al. (2022). “Review of 3D printing in photocatalytic substrates and catalysts.” Materials Today Energy: 101100.


Li, N., et al. (2022). “Review of 3D printing in photocatalytic substrates and catalysts.” Materials Today Energy: 101100.

            , Aguirre-Cortés, J. M., et al. (2023). “3D printing in photocatalysis: Methods and capabilities for the improved performance.” Applied Materials Today 32: 101831.


Department of Chemistry, University Of Agriculture Faisalabad, Sub-Campus Toba Tek Singh

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