3D printed polylactic acid (PLA) filters reinforced with polysaccharide nanofibers for metal ions capture and microplastics separation from water

Natalia Fijoł, Andrea Aguilar-Sanchez, Maria Ximena Ruiz Caldas, Jakob Redlinger-Pohn, Andreas Mautner, Aji P. Mathew (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The need for multifunctional, robust, reusable, and high-flux filters is a constant challenge for sustainable water treatment. In this work, fully biobased and biodegradable water purification filters were developed and processed by the means of three-dimensional (3D) printing, more specifically by fused deposition modelling (FDM).

The polylactic acid (PLA) – based composites reinforced with homogenously dispersed TEMPO-oxidized cellulose nanofibers (TCNF) or chitin nanofibers (ChNF) were prepared within a four-step process; i. melt blending, ii. thermally induced phase separation (TIPS) pelletization method, iii. freeze drying and iv. single-screw extrusion to 3D printing filaments. The monolithic, biocomposite filters were 3D printed in cylindrical as well as hourglass geometries with varying, multiscale pore architectures. The filters were designed to control the contact time between filter’s active surfaces and contaminants, tailoring their permeance.

All printed filters exhibited high print quality and high water throughput as well as enhanced mechanical properties, compared to pristine PLA filters. The improved toughness values of the biocomposite filters clearly indicate the reinforcing effect of the homogenously dispersed nanofibers (NFs). The homogenous dispersion is attributed to the TIPS method. The NFs effect is also reflected in the adsorption capacity of the filters towards copper ions, which was shown to be as high as 234 and 208 mg/gNF for TCNF and ChNF reinforced filters, respectively, compared to just 4 mg/g for the pure PLA filters. Moreover, the biocomposite-based filters showed higher potential for removal of microplastics from laundry effluent water when compared to pure PLA filters with maximum separation efficiency of 54 % and 35 % for TCNF/PLA and ChNF/PLA filters, respectively compared to 26 % for pure PLA filters, all that while maintaining their high permeance.

The combination of environmentally friendly materials with a cost and time-effective technology such as FDM allows the development of customized water filtration systems, which can be easily adapted in the areas most affected by the inaccessibility of clean water.
Original languageEnglish
Article number141153
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Metal ion removal
  • Microplastics removal
  • 3D printing
  • Polylactic acid
  • Nanocellulose
  • Nanochitin


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