Australian researchers have harnessed the power of sound waves to enable precision micro- and nano-manufacturing.
They found that high-frequency sound waves can be used to precisely control the spread of a thin film of fluid along a chip.
The technique could offer significant advances in thin film coatings for applications ranging from paint manufacturing and wound care to 3D printing and micro-casting.
RMIT researchers announced what they called a breakthrough in a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society.
James Friend, Director of the MicroNano Research Facility at RMIT, said the technique allows for precise, fast and unconventional micro- and nano-fabrication.
“By tuning the sound waves, we can create any pattern we want on the surface of a microchip,” Professor Friend said.
“Manufacturing using thin film technology currently lacks precision – structures are physically spun around to disperse the liquid and coat components with thin film.
“We’ve found that thin film liquid either flows towards or away from high-frequency sound waves, depending on its thickness.”
The new process, which the researchers have called acoustowetting, works on a chip made of lithium niobate, a material capable of converting electrical energy into mechanical pressure.
The surface of the chip is covered with microelectrodes and the chip is connected to a power source, with the power converted to high-frequency sound waves.
Thin film liquid is added to the surface of the chip, and the sound waves are then used to control its flow.
When the liquid is ultra-thin, at nano and sub-micro depths, it flows away from the high-frequency sound waves.
The flow reverses at slightly thicker dimensions, moving towards the sound waves. But at a millimetre or more in depth, the flow reverses again, moving away.
This clip explains the process
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