From Liquids Into Solids, The Next Steps To Sustainable 3-D Printing?
3-D printing is an exciting new realm of technology within the construction industry. New applications are constantly popping up, such as printing residential structures or using new and innovative materials. Berkeley lab scientists have now come up with the revolutionary idea of printing liquids.
The scientists used a modified 3-D printer to inject threads of water into silicone oil, which effectively sculpted a tube made of one liquid within another liquid. So far the team has been able to print threads of water between 10 microns and 1 millimeter in diameter, and these threads are able to conform to their surroundings and continuously change shape. The ability to print liquid structures seems unrealistic because intuitively one would assume the liquid would break up into droplets and disperse. Scientists were able to prevent this from happening by using a nanoparticle-derived surfactant that locks the water in place, by effectively creating a super soap. The supersoap was achieved by dispersing gold nanoparticles into water and polymer ligands into an oil. The gold nanoparticles and polymer ligands want to attach to each other, but at the same time, they also remain in their respective oil and water mediums.
The scientists at Berkeley envision that this application of 3-D printing will permit all-liquid materials to be used to construct liquid electronics that are power flexible and stretchable devices. The material is effectively a new class that can be customized into liquid reaction vessels for many uses, so this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what applications this technological breakthrough will unlock.