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3D Printing Liquid Metal Fugitive Inks

Direct-writing liquid metal as a sacrificial template for molding of microfluidic channels

Researchers at NC State have developed a new method to create microfluidic channels and micro-vasculature in polymers by 3D printing liquid metal ‘fugitive inks’. The liquid metal – an alloy of gallium – can be 3D printed onto polymer substrates and encapsulated with more polymer. The metal can be printed due to the formation of a thin surface oxide on its surface, which stabilizes its shape. Once encapsulated in polymer, this oxide layer can be removed using several techniques, causing the metal to retract from the encasing material. This retraction leaves behind empty micro-channels, which can then be used for microfluidics and other applications. One example is to pattern micro-vasculature into materials in a way that mimics the vasculature of the human body. Although other strategies exist to print fugitive inks, the present work is distinguished by its simplicity and rapid, room temperature processing.

The paper, “3D printing of liquid metals as fugitive inks for fabrication of 3D microfluidic channels” is published online in the journal Lab on a Chip. For more information, visit the website of the journal.


Source and copyright: Lab Chip