Researchers show off liquid metal 3D printing

Posted on Wednesday, Jul 10 2013 @ 16:09 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh reveal a new method that enables the 3D printing of liquid metals at room temperature. The liquid metal looks a bit like the T-1000 from Terminator 2, it consists of an alloy of gallium and indium that stabilizes itself by forming a thin oxide skin when exposed to air. Potential applications for the technique include bendable electronics and self-healing stretchable wires. Full details can be read over here.
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed three-dimensional (3-D) printing technology and techniques to create free-standing structures made of liquid metal at room temperature.

“It’s difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a ‘skin’ that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,” says Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.

The researchers developed multiple techniques for creating these structures, which can be used to connect electronic components in three dimensions. White it is relatively straightforward to pattern the metal “in plane” – meaning all on the same level – these liquid metal structures can also form shapes that reach up or down.

One technique involves stacking droplets of liquid metal on top of each other, much like a stack of oranges at the supermarket. The droplets adhere to one another, but retain their shape – they do not merge into a single, larger droplet.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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