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Issue 10, 2016
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3D printing of liquid metals as fugitive inks for fabrication of 3D microfluidic channels

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Abstract

This paper demonstrates a simple method to fabricate 3D microchannels and microvasculature at room temperature by direct-writing liquid metal as a sacrificial template. The formation of a surface oxide skin on the low-viscosity liquid metal stabilizes the shape of the printed metal for planar and out-of-plane structures. The printed structures can be embedded in a variety of soft (e.g. elastomeric) and rigid (e.g. thermoset) polymers. Both acid and electrochemical reduction are capable of removing the oxide skin that forms on the metal, which destabilizes the ink so that it withdraws from the encapsulating material due to capillary forces, resulting in nearly full recovery of the fugitive ink at room temperature. Whereas conventional fabrication procedures typically confine microchannels to 2D planes, the geometry of the printed microchannels can be varied from a simple 2D network to complex 3D architectures without using lithography. The method produces robust monolithic structures without the need for any bonding or assembling techniques that often limit the materials of construction of conventional microchannels. Removing select portions of the metal leaves behind 3D metal features that can be used as antennas, interconnects, or electrodes for interfacing with lab-on-a-chip devices. This paper describes the capabilities and limitations of this simple process.

Graphical abstract: 3D printing of liquid metals as fugitive inks for fabrication of 3D microfluidic channels

  • This article is part of the themed collection: 3D Printing
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Publication details

The article was received on 11 Feb 2016, accepted on 21 Mar 2016 and first published on 21 Mar 2016


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C6LC00198J
Citation: Lab Chip, 2016,16, 1812-1820
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    3D printing of liquid metals as fugitive inks for fabrication of 3D microfluidic channels

    D. P. Parekh, C. Ladd, L. Panich, K. Moussa and M. D. Dickey, Lab Chip, 2016, 16, 1812
    DOI: 10.1039/C6LC00198J

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