Imagine if our everyday electronics were hundreds of times smaller and faster than they are, or if we had nanorobots that could pass through cells to deliver treatment directly to a specific location in our bodies.
This is what world-leading researchers in the field of nanoscale 3D printing are working towards in QUT’s Soft Matter Materials Laboratory.
“Everyone’s life is dependent on electronics. The speed of electronics dictates the speed of your internet connection and your phone’s processing power,” says Dr Sarah Walden, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory.
“In a world where we are gathering and storing more data than ever, we need to reduce the size of electronic circuits. Nanoscale 3D printing, which would allow for nanoscale electronic circuits, if realised, would revolutionise the entire electronics industry and have an impact on all of us,” Dr Walden adds.
Because many 3D printers operate with light, Dr Walden is working with her supervisor Professor Christopher Barner-Kowillik to explore how controlling chemical reactions with different colours of light will help them to 3D print on the nanoscale.
To print at such small sizes, new chemical reactions need to be designed which can be started and stopped with light – the chemical reaction is turned ‘on’ with one colour of light, and ‘off’ with another. Two different coloured laser beams are overlapped to fine-tune the ‘on’ area to print the smallest structures possible.
The next step for the team is to adapt these 3D printed structures for medical and technology applications.
“If we can print these structures at the nanoscale, we can make them conductive and therefore we can have the smallest, fastest electronics in the world. This means all of our devices –smartphones, tablets, VR goggles – can all get smaller and lighter and integrated into our everyday lives,” says Dr Walden.
How can we help this important work to continue?
You can help the team to push the boundaries of current 3D printing technologies by supporting this project on QUT Giving Day.
Evonik Industries donor challenge
$5000 has been pledged by Evonik Industries to be donated when 50 people give to the Nanoscale 3D Printing Fund as part of QUT Giving Day.