A synthetic technique inspired by the biomineralisation process in nacre has been previously reported to be effective in replicating the nanostructural elements of nacre in 2D chitosan hydrogel films. Here we evaluate the applicability of this synthetic biomineralisation technique, herein called the McGrath method, in replicating the flat tabular morphology of calcium carbonate and other nanostructural elements obtained when 2D chitosan hydrogel films were used, on a 3D porous chitosan hydrogel-based scaffold, hence developing 3D chitosan-calcium carbonate composites. Nozzle extrusion-based 3D printing technology was used to develop 3D porous scaffolds using chitosan hydrogel as the printing ink in a custom-designed 3D printer. The rheology of the printing ink and print parameters were optimised in order to fabricate 3D cylindrical structures with a cubic lattice-based internal structure. The effects of various dehydration techniques, including air-drying, critical point-drying and freeze-drying, on the structural integrity of the as-printed scaffolds from the nano to macroscale, were evaluated. The final 3D composite materials were characterised using scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The study has shown that McGrath method can be used to develop chitosan-calcium carbonate composites wherein the mineral and matrix are in intimate association with each other at the nanoscale. This process can be successfully integrated with 3D printing technology to develop 3D compartmentalised polymer-mineral composites.
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