Engineers at MIT have contrived a way to make nanoscale 3D structures of nearly every object by shrinking them to one-thousandth of their original volume. The technique is called “Implosion Fabrication.”
Existing techniques for manufacturing nanostructure are limited in what they can do, especially the ones that involve adding layers on top of each other to make 3D nanostructures. But the new technique goes past that limitation as it requires creating a much larger version of the object first inside polyacrylate – gel found in diapers, shape it with lasers and shrink the entire structure one thousandth the size of the original (10-fold reduction in each dimension) by adding an acid.
Implosion Fabrication is a reversed process of a recently developed technique known as expansion microscopy in which tissue is embedded into a hydrogel and then expanded, allowing researchers to visualize cells and tissues with remarkable details.
“People have been trying to invent better equipment to make smaller nanomaterials for years, but we realized that if you just use existing systems and embed your materials in this gel, you can shrink them down to the nanoscale, without distorting the patterns,” says Samuel Rodriques, lead author of the study.
As the technique makes it possible to put any kind of material or structure into a 3-D pattern with nanoscale precision, the team expects some of its earliest applications could fall in optics, that is – in making specialized lenses to study the fundamental properties of light. Other potential applications include in field such as medicine and robotics.
The findings have been published the journal Science.