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3D printing for better environmental monitoring

Since its beginnings, 3D printing has come a long way with the technique now used for industry-grade production across the globe.

Sepideh Keshan Balavandy, a PhD student within the School of Natural Sciences, is exploring how 3D printing can improve and support environmental monitoring.
Sitting at the crossroads of engineering, chemistry, and advanced technology, Sepideh’s research is focused on designing and developing low-cost 3D printed platforms for the portable analysis of environmental samples, such as soil and water.
“3D printing techniques, which are accessible and affordable, can create highly complex devices with high levels of integration and automation to create portable and compact devices known as ‘lab on a chip’,” says Sepideh.
“This includes those that allow the analysis of non-treated samples for environmental analysis, saving time and money and eliminating the risks associated with sample pre-treatment, and importantly providing analytical results almost immediately.”
Earlier this year, Sepideh published a paper on using 3D printed microfluidic devices for tests on soil chemistry.
“The aim of these devices is to perform a specified test or task on a small volume of fluid,” explains Sepideh. “These devices often require a membrane and a great difficulty in developing membrane-containing devices is that these membranes must be incorporated into the device without creating or allowing any leaks within the chambers of the device.”
In the paper, Sepideh and her co-authors highlight their methods for producing a single-material 3D printed device with an inbuilt membrane that is inexpensive and easy to mass-produce.
“One possible application in which microfluidic devices could be used is in the determination of soil and water conditions,” explains Sepideh.
“Agricultural decisions such as the nature and number of crops to be grown are commonly made on the chemical properties of the available soil.”
“Such a device may be suitable for a range of applications, including but not limited to soil testing, where the portability of the microfluidic device may achieve accurate, quantitative results in the field.”
Chemistry was Sepideh’s favourite subject in high school, with her fascination for chemistry dating back to her childhood when she first saw vegetable structure under a light microscope.
“Chemistry is a world of wonder and I was fortunate to be able to explore a small portion of it,” says Sepideh.
“My bachelor's degree was in the chemistry of textile and fibre science (Textile Engineering - Iran) and during my master's degree, I became acquainted with the world of nanomaterials and nanotechnology (UPM University - Malaysia).”
“ACROSS (Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science) and my supervisor, Professor Michael Breadmore, inspired me to pursue my PhD research in analytical chemistry at University of Tasmania.”
“As a mother, I want to be a good role model for my daughter, Diana, who was with me during my Masters and PhD. I want her to know that is never too late for a woman to follow her dreams.”
Published on: 20 Jul 2021 11:14am