Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that are the result of consumer products, building materials, human metabolism and activities, outdoor air pollution and more. Many VOCs are classified as known or possible carcinogens, irritants and toxicants, with VOC exposure being associated with the onset of some serious health threats. Short-term exposure to VOCs can result in eye and respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders, allergic skin reactions and other health effects, while prolonged exposure to VOCs can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
At the Deshusses Lab in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, postdoctoral associate, Luis Lopez develops and evaluates microbioreactors for the intensification of treatment of indoor air contaminated with VOCs. Lopez approached the Co-Lab in hopes to reproduce a section of a glass capillary microbioreactor, specifically a scaffold to hold the glass capillaries inside the microbioreactor case.
Previous handmade prototypes were constructed with basic laboratory materials and balls of epoxy. However, they were time consuming to make and ultimately were too fragile and aesthetically unappealing. With Co-Lab engineer Neel Kurupassery’s design expertise in Fusion 360, a more robust, uniform and professional product was designed and fabricated using the MultiJet 3-D printers.
Modifications to the microbioreactor scaffolding design were made for the most efficient and easily handled prototype. As a matter of fact, Lopez recalls going into a meeting with Neel, with all the corrections that he was going to suggest already done! Neel’s full investment into the project allowed for new ideas to replace initial ones, leading to significant improvements to the microbioreactor, totaling 15 hours from inception to completion.
“Establishing the collaborative relationship between the Deshusses Lab and the Co-Lab for the present project and for future designs it is a great accomplishment for us. This experience allowed us to realize how easy to work with and how helpful the Co-Lab can be, thereby increasing the scope of our research using 3D printing.” –Luis Lopez