Nanoparticle Visualization through 3D Printing

Anne Bentley, an associate professor at Lewis & Clark College, has pioneered a method to visually represent nanoparticles using 3D printed models. Nanoparticles, known for their minuscule size (as small as one nanometer) and unique properties, are traditionally observed through electron microscopes. Bentley’s approach scales up these structures, making them tangible and visually accessible.

Bentley’s work in the Department of Chemistry focuses on the geometric shapes of nanoparticles, which are crystalline and exhibit distinctive planes or facets. These shapes, derived from the atomic arrangement, include cubes, octahedra, and rhombic dodecahedra. Her aim is to aid materials chemistry students in understanding the foundational principles of crystal planes and nanoparticle shape control.

Nanoparticle Visualization through 3D Printing
Nanoparticles, made big, thanks to AM. (Image Credit: Stephen Mercier / Lewis and Clark College)

In her published article in the Journal of Chemical Education, Bentley emphasizes the importance of understanding low-index shapes and the Miller indices, a three-digit notation system for indexing crystal planes. By creating physical models, she bridges the gap between abstract numerical data and tangible comprehension, aiding both educators and students in grasping this complex field.

Beyond educational purposes, Bentley’s lab explores the practical applications of gold nanoparticles, particularly in converting carbon dioxide into fuel. By controlling the shape of these particles, researchers can enhance their catalytic properties, demonstrating a potential route for carbon dioxide recycling.

Bentley’s innovative use of 3D printed models not only democratizes the understanding of nanoscience but also hints at future advancements in nanoparticle applications, particularly in environmental sustainability.

You can read more about the research in the Journal of Chemical Education over at this link.

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