Scientists in Japan recently used a promising new 3D printing material to create objects so small that they are the size as a single bacteria. The researchers were able print shapes that are measured in mere micrometers, including the world’s tiniest rabbit. While the demonstration may be playful, the application certainly isn’t – this new technology may someday be used to print cells and micro-electrodes for medical purposes.
A research team consisting of physicists and chemists from Yokohama National University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and C-MET, Inc., were able to produce tiny shapes that could then be carbonized (or charred), which increases the conductivity of the resin – essential for biomedical use in the brain. Today’s commercially available resins can be used to print tiny objects, but they lack the ability to carbonize.
Scientists used UV light and lasers to get the desired shapes.”When we got the carbon bunny structure, we were very surprised,” says Shoji Maruo, the project’s advisor. “Even with a very simple experimental structure, we could get this complicated 3D carbon microstructure.”
Once the process is perfected, scientists will be able to use the printed material to treat diseases like Parkinson’s and epilepsy. They could also be used for applications in batteries and fuel cells. The team’s next goal is to create structures that can withstand even higher temperatures.