Public Release: 

'Imploding' 3D printed nanomaterials in a shrinking gel

3D nanofabrication by volumetric deposition and controlled shrinkage of patterned scaffolds

American Association for the Advancement of Science

"Imploding" 3D Printed Nanomaterials in a Shrinking Gel: By 3d printing nanomaterials inside an "imploding" hydrogel and shrinking them down to ten times their former size, researchers demonstrate a new method of nanofabrication that overcomes many of the previous' limitations, a new study reports. The new technique termed, "Implosion Fabrication" (ImpFab), allows for the creation of three-dimensional nanoscale structures with almost no limitations in shape or design complexity and using a variety of materials, including metal, semiconductors and biomolecules. While current nanofabrication techniques are capable of producing nanoscale structures, most are limited by their inability to create complex shapes or geometries. Standard methods such as lithography are only capable of printing two-dimensional layers onto patterned surfaces, and while others, like direct laser writing, can print 3D structures, they must be self-supporting, thereby greatly limiting an objects geometry as well as the material used to create it. A versatile 3D nanofabrication technique capable of producing complex free-form, nanoscale objects could be greatly useful in the development of a variety of mechanical, electrical and biological devices. Daniel Oran and colleagues present a method to 3D print nanoscale materials -- a process they term "Implosion Fabrication" (ImpFab). Oran et al. use a photo-patterned scaffold suspended inside a hydrated gel, upon which nanomaterials are printed. When the gel is dehydrated, the scaffold within implodes, shrinking the object along with it to the nanoscale. The authors demonstrate the process by printing highly conductive 3D nanostructures in silver, which retained their shape after shrinking, as well as complex arrays of disconnected metal nanostructures -- a fabrication that cannot be duplicated using previous methods.

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