This is Science: 3D Optical Printing Moves to Micro Level

    The boom of the last 5-7 years is the various types of 3D printing: whether it is the printing of necessary items at home , the printing of human organs or even whole houses . But what if you want to print a specific material, and even at a microscale?

    Piezoelectrics are substances capable of generating an electric charge and potential difference during compression or tension. They have quietly settled in everyday life for a long time: piezoelectric lighters, nozzles of modern printers, and what would we do without a quartz resonator in any digital technology ?!

    A group of scientists from the University of California recently published a work in which they proposed a method for three-dimensional printing with polymeric materials with piezoelectric properties using conventional optical 3D printing. In fact, this printing method is the development of laser stereolithography , in which a thin layer of a substance is photopolymerized by a laser point by point. However, the main difference is the resolution: up to 1 micron, while conventional lithography gives only 0.1 mm or 100 microns.

    a) A 3D optical micro-printing scheme, which allows obtaining objects with a resolution of several microns, b) barium titanate crystals themselves, c) a scheme for attaching nanocrystals to the matrix

    In addition, printing is not just a polymer, but a composite material in which barium titanate nanocrystals (BaTiO 3 ) , one of the most famous piezoelectric materials, are distributed in a polymer matrix . In this case, the polymer matrix itself is chemically bonded to nanocrystals, which allows preserving the piezoelectric properties under tension and compression, in other words, barium titanate generates an electric charge when the geometry changes.

    Examples of printed two-dimensional structures

    Although bulk barium titanate allows the generation of up to 200 picoF / H, 40 picoF / H obtained for this composite material are a kind of record. To better imagine the level of numbers stated in article 40, picoF / N approximately corresponds to a potential difference of the order of 600-700 mV with a force of only 10 N, which is not so small.

    Examples of printed three-dimensional structures, including complex shapes.

    In addition, fast and cheap printing of the above-described three-dimensional fibers presented above would very well give a new impetus to the realization of smart clothes and the generation of electricity when worn. And finally, the technology can also be used to create a new generation of inkjet printers with much better resolution by reducing the size of the drop (and similar work is already underway,for example ).

    Original article at ACSNano (DOI: 10.1021 / nn503268f)

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