New 3D Printing Method From Nano-to-Microscale Creates Bio-Similar Materials

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a new 3D-manufacturing method that can create and control a material’s architecture from the nanoscale to centimeters.

Washington State University researchers have developed a new 3D manufacturing method that can control a material’s architecture from the nanoscale to centimeters, allowing for the first time the production of large objects with a nanoscale architecture.

The work is the first method that successfully arranges nanoparticles in 3D space at micro- and nanoscales to build large structures, said Rahul Panat, an associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering who led the research. This has a range of engineering applications, from batteries to materials, he said.

“People have shown wonderful properties of materials at nanoscale,” Panat said. “However, building a large volume from nanoparticles is challenging. This work allows us to preserve the nanoscale properties--e.g. high surface to volume ratio of materials--but build device volumes that are useful in real devices. No one has been able to create such structures in the past. So this is a completely new method.”

3D printing nanao
Researchers at Washington State University have developed a new 3D-manufacturing method that can create and control a material’s architecture from the nanoscale to centimeters. The method can form microstructures that could be used in batteries, lightweight ultrastrong materials, catalytic converters, supercapacitors, and biological scaffolds. (Source: Washington State University)

Panat and the team used a 3D-printing method to create foglike microdroplets that contain nanoparticles of silver and to deposit them at specific locations. As the liquid in the fog evaporated, the nanoparticles remained, a process that created tiny, porous structures with a large surface area and significant strength.
This process is similar to a rare natural process in which tiny fog droplets that contain sulfur evaporate over the hot desert in western Africa, giving rise to crystalline flower-like structures called “desert roses.”

It also allows for the development of materials through the 3D-manufacturing process that have the same arrangement of materials as those that are naturally strong yet lightweight, such as wood and bone, Panat said.

“This is made possible by arrangement of materials to form porous structures from nanoscale to centimeter length scales,” he explained. “Our method thus allow bone-like strong materials that are lightweight. It will create structures that fill critical gaps in existing applications and open up new applications that we have not even thought of before.”

Panat and his team published a paper on their work in the journal Science Advances.

Some of the applications the team is eyeing for the method are the ability to develop high-capacity fast charging batteries, lightweight ultra-strong materials, mechanical metamaterials, catalytic converters, supercapacitors, and biological scaffolds, Panat said.

For instance, the team currently is developing finely detailed, porous anodes and cathodes for batteries rather than the solid structures that are now used, which could significantly improve battery speed and capacity and allow for the use of new and higher energy materials, they said.

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