X-MAT, the advanced materials division of US-based material engineering company Semplastics, has been awarded a US$1.2 million contract from the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at the US Department of Energy (DOE) to research and test coal-enhanced filaments and resins with 3D printing.
Semplastics said that bringing coal waste to additive manufacturing is changing the common misconception that sustainability and technology cannot exist together. Its process, which the company described as cost-effective, will utilise high volumes of waste to produce high-value, in-demand products.
Bill Easter, founder of X-MAT and Semplastics, said: "We're recycling coal waste and reimaging it. We're excited to receive this grant from the DOE so that we can continue to research ways to reuse coal waste. With this project, we're seeing technology's ability to offer innovative sustainable solutions."
The DOE award focuses on companies that are interested in 3D printing filaments by utilising coal waste. X-MAT plans to develop 3D printer filaments that use at least two of the most common coal waste materials - bituminous coal fines and fly ash - by applying its high-temperature plastics and ceramic composites materials technology.
Following this research, the best filament formulations will be used in a commercially available 3D printer to produce several demonstration objects.
Easter explained: "We're 3D printing coal waste - that's cool. It's sustainable, eco-friendly and continues our company's mission to give coal a new reputation."
X-MAT also recently completed a new state-of-the-art battery laboratory, which will allow the company to continue its research on recycling of spent graphite for lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) as well as on how to utilise coal in battery materials. So far, the company has received more than US$10.7 million in contracts and grants for its research.