Published: Aug. 9, 2021

Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2 3D printed model of CU Boulder's logoAbove: Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2. Below: 3D printing of CU Boulder's logo made by the machine. 

A new 3D “nano” printer installed in the Colorado Shared Instrumentation in Nanofabrication and Characterization (COSINC) cleanroom on campus provides several new research avenues in soft materials and optics among other fields.

“We have all perhaps heard or even used a 3D printer to fabricate structures on the millimeter, centimeter, and to macro-scale,” said COSINC Director Aju Jugessur. “However, this new printer works on a very different principle and can print features at least 500 times smaller than the size of the human hair.”

The new Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2 operates on a principle known as two photon polymerization, where a pulsed laser source is used to deliver extremely high intensity light to a very small focal volume and over a short period of time. This leads to a nonlinear optical phenomenon where two photons simultaneously interact with a resin or a polymeric material to initiate polymerization. This could be understood as the formation of bonds among small molecules to generate a larger chainlike molecule.

Jugessur explained that since the polymerization process is confined to a very small focal volume, the achievable spatial resolution is about 200 nanometers – approximately 500 times smaller than the size of human hair. As a result, there is a factor of 100 more precision with finest features down to the sub-micrometer range, enabling the fabrication of almost any 3D micro/nanostructures. That opens a wide range of scientific and technological applications, from soft materials, optics, and photonics to biomedical devices and nanomedicine.

“There is a continuing trend towards miniaturization, with the traditional origin in the microelectronics industry but with complex and expensive technologies, often requiring multistep processes,” Jugessur said. “This technology involves a one-step process and is a powerful direct fabrication method which can be used from prototyping to serial production in science and industry.”

The new capability is an exciting addition to COSINC – a multidisciplinary core research facility and service center, within the College of Engineering and Applied Science, that provides access to state-of-the-art equipment in the areas of micro and nanofabrication, nanomaterials characterization and metrology and offers expertise and advanced hands-on training. Because it is an open-research facility, it currently serves the academic, industrial, and governmental researchers across the CU Boulder campus and beyond.

Professor Ryan Hayward, from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, echoed Jugessur’s excitement.

“It offers very high resolution (sub-micrometer) 3D printing capabilities that will open new avenues for our research, and we hope for others across campus as well. Our group is particularly interested in the fabrication of microscale shape-morphing structures, including particles and mechanical metamaterials,” he said.

For more information about the facility and ways to collaborate contact Jugessur by email.