Scientists at Berkeley Lab, together with the Department of Energy, have developed a method to construct 3D structures completely made from liquid.
They used a modified 3D printer to inject tiny streams of water (some as small as one millimeter in diameter) into silicone oil to sculpt tubes of liquid within another liquid. This technique could be utilized for liquid electronics and to create flexible devices.
“It’s a new class of material that can reconfigure itself, and it has the potential to be customized into liquid reaction vessels for many uses, from chemical synthesis to ion transport to catalysis,” says visiting faculty scientist Tom Russell.
“This stability means we can stretch water into a tube, and it remains a tube,” adds Russell. “Or we can shape water into an ellipsoid, and it remains an ellipsoid. We’ve used these nanoparticle supersoaps to print tubes of water that last for several months.”
The team modified a regular 3D printer so it could extrude liquid through a syringe. The printer could then insert the needle into the oil and inject the water streams into a programmed pattern. The technology may also lead to fabrication of complex coatings with specific magnetic properties, or even self-repairing electronics!
Funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Russell developed the process with researcher Joe Forth. Results of their findings were published in March in the journal Advanced Materials.
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