Researchers in the UK have developed a way to transform microscopic particles and droplets into precise patterns using the power of sound right in the air. The implications for printing, especially in medicine and electronics, are far-reaching.
Scientists have shown that it is possible to create precise, predefined patterns on surfaces from droplets or aerosol particles using computer-controlled ultrasound.
“It has already been shown that the force of ultrasound lifts small particles into the air. We are delighted to have significantly expanded the range of applications by creating a pattern of dense clouds of material in the air at scale and the ability to algorithmically control how the material takes shape. “
Professor Mike Fraser of the Department of Computer Science, University of Bath
The researchers believe their work could revolutionize printing by improving the speed, cost and accuracy of non-contact airborne printing techniques. Their work is already showing the potential of sonolithography for biotechnology.
Sonolithography allows you to gently, contactlessly and quickly create patterns of cells and biomaterials on surfaces. Tissue engineering can use biotechnology techniques to create specific structures from cells and materials. We are adding new techniques to the biotechnology toolbox.
“The objects we manipulate are the size of water droplets in the clouds. It’s incredibly fun to be able to move such small objects with such precise control. This could allow us to direct aerosol cans with unprecedented precision, for example, for drug delivery or wound healing. ”
Professor Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasound, Bristol Department of Mechanical Engineering
In addition to biomedical applications, the team has shown that the method is applicable to a wide variety of materials. Printed electronics is another area the team is looking to develop, with sonolithography being used to place conductive ink in circuits and components.