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TECH SPACE
3D printer helps scientists scale up nanostructures
by Brooks Hays
Blacksburg, Va. (UPI) Jul 18, 2016


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Nanostructures are prized for their seemingly infinite material qualities, whether mechanical, chemical, electrical or optical.

But scientists have struggled to scale up promising nanostructures without sacrificing their uniformity and the qualities that made them desirable in the first place.

Researchers at Virginia Tech believe they've begun to solve this problem by developing a technique for scaling up nanostructure materials using a 3D printer.

The new printing process creates multi-leveled hierarchical lattices with nanoscale features. The metallic nanostructured materials maintain their impressive strength, while gaining improved flexibility and elasticity.

Multi-leveled hierarchical structures describe structural patterns which are mirrored at various scales within a single material.

"Creating 3D hierarchical micro features across the entire seven orders of magnitude in structural bandwidth in products is unprecedented," lead researcher Xiaoyu "Rayne" Zheng, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, said in a news release. "Assembling nanoscale features into billets of materials through multi-leveled 3D architectures, you begin to see a variety of programmed mechanical properties such as minimal weight, maximum strength and super elasticity at centimeter scales."

Researchers believe their printing process can yield materials with applications in the aerospace, military and automotive industries.

"The increased elasticity and flexibility obtained through the new process and design come without incorporating soft polymers, thereby making the metallic materials suitable as flexible sensors and electronics in harsh environments, where chemical and temperature resistance are required," Zheng said.

The new printing process also increased the surface area of nanosctructures within the multi-leveled hierarchical lattice, thereby amplifying optical and electrical properties.

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