A Focus on our PhD Students – Fiona Britto

I am a chemical engineer, having obtained my undergraduate training at the National University of La Plata in Argentina. While my academic background is in chemical engineering, my research background is in material chemistry. My first contact with scientific research was as an undergraduate student in 2013, when I received a scholarship to undertake a summer internship at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory. I became passionate about nano materials synthesis and characterization, and from that moment on, I aimed to pursue a career in scientific research.

In 2018, I began a PhD in Chemistry at the National University of San Martín (UNSAM), working under the supervision of Professor Galo Soler-Illia at the Nanosystems Institute (INS) in Argentina. My PhD project is focused on the production of mesoporous oxide particles through sol-gel chemistry and their application in 3D printing (3DP) of functional hybrid materials. The main goal is to study how to incorporate new functionalities into 3D printable materials by using mesoporous materials as platforms to load and disperse molecules. In particular, I worked on a methodology for the fabrication of filaments based on SBA-15/polycaprolactone for desktop FDM 3D printers. Subsequently, I evaluated the use of SBA-15 as a platform to load and disperse methylene blue – a model molecule. This work was recently presented at the 7th ISGS Online Summer School and I was delighted to be awarded with the 3rd ePoster Prize.

The results obtained opened up a new opportunity for the 3DP of functional materials containing labile molecules. The next step will be to further extend this work with the aim of including other molecules of interest. Moreover, my goal is to understand the influence of 3DP parameters and the presence of particles on the final structural properties of printed materials. I believe that additive manufacturing has tremendous potential, as it can lead to the integration of functional hybrid materials in three-dimensional devices in a cost-effective, fast and free-form way.