Scientists using light to imprint features onto polymer or plastic, print sub-wavelength features one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Watch the video…
Associate Professor Nick Fang’s research led his team to disprove the established diffraction limit, proving for the first time that it is possible to print sub-wavelength features.
His discovery allows manufacturers to imprint finer features into items such as DVDs to significantly improve storage capabilities, or to probe the traffic of protein or DNA.
The geometric basis for such microstructures was determined more than a decade ago, Fang says, but it took years to transfer that mathematical understanding. He explains:
“To something we can print, using a digital projection — to convert this solid model on paper to something we can hold in our hand. The result was ‘a pleasant surprise to us,’ performing even better than anticipated.
We found that for a material as light and sparse as aerogel [a kind of glass foam], we see a mechanical stiffness that’s comparable to that of solid rubber, and 400 times stronger than a counterpart of similar density. Such samples can easily withstand a load of more than 160,000 times their own weight.”
So far, the researchers at MIT and LLNL have tested the process using three engineering materials — metal, ceramic, and polymer — and all showed the same properties of being stiff at light weight.