The process is called "capillary forming," and it takes advantage of capillary action, the phenomenon at work when liquids seem to defy gravity and travel up a drinking straw of their own accord.
The new miniature shapes, which are difficult if not impossible to build using any material, have the potential to harness the exceptional mechanical, thermal, electrical, and chemical properties of carbon nanotubes in a scalable fashion, said A. John Hart, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and in the School of Art & Design.
They could lead to probes that can interface with individual cells and tissues, novel microfluidic devices, and new materials with a custom patchwork of surface textures and properties.
A paper on the research is published in the October edition of Advanced Materials, and is featured on the cover.
"It's easy to make carbon nanotubes straight and vertical like buildings," Hart said. "It hasn't been possible to make them into more complex shapes. Assembling nanostructures into three-dimensional shapes is one of the major goals of nanotechnology. The method of capillary forming could be applied to many types of nanotubes and nanowires, and its scalability is very attractive for manufacturing."
Hart's method starts by stamping patterns on a silicon wafer. His ink in this case is the iron catalyst that facilitates the vertical growth of the carbon nanotubes in the patterned shapes. Rather than stamp a traditional, uniform grid of circles, Hart stamp hollow circles, half circles and circles with smaller ones cut from their centers. The shapes are arranged in different orientations and groupings. One such grouping is a pentagon of half circles with their flat sides facing outward.
He uses the traditional "chemical vapor deposition" process to grow the nanotubes in the prescribed patterns. Then he suspends the silicon wafer with its nanotube forest over a beaker of a boiling solvent, such as acetone. He lets the acetone condense on the nanotubes, and then lets the acetone evaporate.
As the liquid condenses, capillary action forces kick in and transform the vertical nanotubes into the intricate three-dimensional structures. For example, tall half-cylinders of nanotubes bend backwards to form a shape resembling a three-dimensional flower.
"We program the formation of 3D shapes with these 2D patterns," Hart said. "We've discovered that the starting shape influences how the capillary forces change the structures' geometry. Some bend, others twist, and we can combine them any way we want."
The capillary forming process allows the researchers to create large batches of 3D microstructures---all much smaller than a cubic millimeter---over essentially limitless areas, Hart said. In addition, the researchers show that their 3D structures are up to 10 times stiffer than typical polymers used in microfabrication. Thus, they can be used as molds for manufacturing of the same 3D shapes in other materials.
"We'd like to think this opens up the idea of creating custom nanostructured surfaces and materials with locally varying geometries and properties, " Hart said. "Now, we think of materials as having the same properties everywhere, but with this new technique we can dream of designing the structure and properties of a material together."
The paper is called "Diverse 3D Microarchitectures Made by Capillary Forming of Carbon Nanotubes."
This research is funded by the University of Michigan College of Engineering and the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Belgium Fund for Scientific Research, and the National Science Foundation.
The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.For more information:
Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says
19.07.2018 | Purdue University
Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride
18.07.2018 | Science China Press
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences
19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences