Breaking New Grounds: Development of Light-Based Nanoscale Metal 3D Printing Process by Researchers


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a novel nanoscale metal 3D printing technique that is more affordable and quicker than existing methods. The research, shared in the Advanced Materials journal, offers a scalable method which could revolutionize an area typically inhibited by costly and slow technologies.

The group, headed by Assistant Professor Sourabh Saha and Ph.D. student Jungho Choi, established a printing method for metal nanostructures that is 480 times quicker and 35 times less costly than traditional techniques. This procedure, known as nanopatterning, is crucial for a range of technologies such as electronic devices, solar energy conversion, sensors, among others.

Contrary to the commonly held belief that high-intensity femtosecond lasers are vital for nanoscale printing, Saha and Choi pursued alternative choices. They selected superluminescent light emitting diodes (SLEDs), which emit light a billion times less intense than femtosecond lasers. The researchers cleverly developed a projection-style printing technology that transforms digital images into optical images, achieving sharper focus and quicker production.

Using a clear ink solution mixed with metal salt, a chemical reaction was triggered when the solution was subjected to superluminescent light. This reaction converted the salt solution into metal, creating nanostructures on the surface of the glass. The unique attribute of the process lies in its projection-style printing which allows the construction of whole structures in a single step, as opposed to other procedures which rely on point-by-point methods hence significantly improving efficiency.

In the words of Saha, “The metrics of cost and speed have been grossly underestimated in the scientific community that focuses on the fabrication and manufacturing of tiny structures.” He posited that in reality these metrics hold significant importance when we aim to transition discoveries from the laboratory to industry. He concluded by stating, “We will only be able to fully harness the potential of nanotechnology for the benefit of society when we have manufacturing methods that take these considerations into account.”

With the SLEDs priced approximately at $3,000, the aim of the researchers is to bring nanoscale 3D printing within reach, breaking free of the constraint of seeking only top-level universities equipped with high-priced technologies. The vast potential covers areas like electronics, optics, and plasmonics, thereby providing a budget-friendly solution for both researchers and small business owners.

For more valuable insights, please read the research article named “Scalable Printing of Metal Nanostructures through Superluminescent Light Projectionhere.

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