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"Like picking apples from a tree" - Daniele Foresti's new printing method uses soundwaves

14.11.2018 17:19

Harvard University researchers around Branco Weiss Fellow Daniele Foresti have developed a new printing method that uses soundwaves to generate droplets from liquids with an unprecedented range of composition and viscosity. Liquid droplets are used in many applications from printing ink on paper to creating microcapsules for drug delivery. Yet many fluids of interest to researchers are too viscous. The viscosity of these fluids changes dramatically with temperature and composition, makes it ever more difficult to optimize printing parameters to control droplet sizes.

“Our goal was to take viscosity out of the picture by developing a printing system that is independent from the material properties of the fluid,” says Daniele Foresti, who is credited first author of the paper. To do that, the researchers turned to acoustic waves. The idea is to generate an acoustic field that literally detaches tiny droplets from the nozzle, much like picking apples from a tree.

The researchers tested the process on a wide range of materials from honey to stem-cell inks, biopolymers, optical resins and, even, liquid metals. Importantly, sound waves don’t travel through the droplet, making the method safe to use even with sensitive biological cargo, such as living cells or proteins. This technique could finally enable the manufacturing of many new biopharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food and expand the possibilities of optical and conductive materials.

The research is published in Science Advances.


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Read the paper in Science Advances