New 3-D-printing and electroplating method produces high-quality metal electrodes for molecular beam-splitters
Many measurement techniques, such as spectroscopy, benefit from the ability to split a single beam of light into two in order to measure changes in one of them. The crucial device that separates the beam is the beam-splitter. These have been mostly limited to light beams, where one uses simply a partially reflective glass.
EPFL scientists have now developed a similar device for splitting beams of molecules, where high-voltage electrodes are used to control the motion of the molecules inside a vacuum. The electrodes are built by an innovative method that combines 3D printing and electroplating for the fabrication of complex metallic structures.
The same approach can also be used in a wide range of other experiments. The new method is published in Physical Review Applied and overcomes previous fabrication problems thus opening up new avenues.
Sean Gordon and Andreas Osterwalder at EPFL's Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, developed the new fabrication method, and demonstrated it by constructing the complicated combination of electrodes required to guide and split beams of molecules. The production method not only allows complex shapes to be made but, in addition, speeds up production by a factor of 50-100.
The technique begins by 3D-printing a plastic piece and then electroplating a 10 μm-thick metal layer onto it. Electroplating is an established technique in various branches of industry like the automobile industry, fabrication of jewelry, or plumbing. It generally uses electrolysis to coat a conductive material with a metallic layer. "but the plating of printed pieces has not been done before in the context of scientific applications," says Andreas Osterwalder.
To make the printed plastic pieces conductive and thus amenable to electroplating, they were first pre-treated by a special procedure developed by the company Galvotec near Zurich. Once the first conductive layer was applied, the pieces could be treated as if they were metallic. The first step can be applied selectively to certain regions of the printed piece, so that the final device contains some areas that are metallic and conductive while others remain insulating.
This process enabled the researchers to build two electrically independent high-voltage electrodes from a single printed plastic piece and with the correct geometry for beam-splitting. Meanwhile, the procedure allows an almost free choice of the coating metal, including some that would be very hard to machine.
This approach also produced surfaces that have no scratches, recesses or abrasions. The molecular beam-splitter used to prove the new method is a structure based on very complex electrodes that require impeccable surface properties and high-precision alignment. "All of which comes for free when using the 3D-printing approach," says Andreas Osterwalder.
Along with cost, the new 3D printing/electroplating method also drastically reduces production time: Traditional manufacturing for such structures can often take several months. But in the EPFL study, all the components were printed within 48 hours and electroplating only took a day. The shorter time allows for very fast turnover and more flexibility in the development and testing of new components.
Finally, 3D printing uses an entirely digital workflow -- the electrodes are printed directly from a computer and require no manual input. This means that an exact replica of a complete experimental setup can be reproduced anywhere by simply transferring a computer file.
The new fabrication method highlights the enormous potential that 3D printers have for fundamental research, in a variety of research areas. It especially demonstrates that we can now quickly produce chemically robust electrically conductive pieces with high precision and at low cost since 3D printing is virtually unlimited in terms of design and the geometry of structures.
This work was funded by EPFL and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Sean D. S. Gordon, Andreas Osterwalder. 3D printed beam splitter for polar neutral molecules. Physical Review Applied 27 April 2017. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.7.044022
Nik Papageorgiou | EurekAlert!
Graphene origami as a mechanically tunable plasmonic structure for infrared detection
25.04.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
Scientists create innovative new 'green' concrete using graphene
24.04.2018 | University of Exeter
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2018 | Information Technology