Professor of Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Karl Böhringer, Professor of Electrical Engineering Lih Lin and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Nicholas Boechler receive a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the advancement of three-dimensional (3D) printers with unprecedented nanoscale resolution.
Boechler is the PI on the project, entitled “MRI: Acquisition of a Nanoscribe 3D laser lithography system.” Other Co-PIs include: Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Deok-Ho Kim and Assistant Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics Marco Salviato.
Three-dimensional printing allows researchers to actualize and test their concepts, bringing life to ideas. Current 3D instruments are limited in their resolution. Most existing devices utilize 15 microns. This is about the size of household dust, a particle that can be seen with the naked eye.
Unfortunately, many experimental device and research concepts require the fabrication of 3D structures with nanoscale features. Nanoscale instruments achieve a resolution 100 times smaller than existing 3D printers, achieving degrees of resolution up to 150 nanometers, or the size of the flu virus.
Researchers will utilize in-plane resolution of 150 nanometers and out-of-plane resolution of 1 micron. This diversity in scope allows for ultra-precise and accurate imaging, which delivers to several fields, including medical and surgical imaging.
The development of a Nanoscribe 3D printer will enable new research and discoveries in engineering and science. Examples given by the authors include “new ultra-light materials that can be tailored for energy absorption” and “new clinical therapies and tissue engineering.”
The opportunities of the Nanoscribe printer are vast, including the support of new educational initiatives. Three-dimensional printing has emerged in STEM education both in K-12 and at the collegiate level. Nanotechnology increases the opportunities for STEM students and the participation of underrepresented students.