Colloidal oxide nanoparticle inks for micrometer-resolution additive manufacturing of three-dimensional gas sensors†
Micrometer-resolution 3D printing of functional oxides is of growing importance for the fabrication of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMSs) with customized 3D geometries. Compared to conventional microfabrication methods, additive manufacturing presents new opportunities for the low-cost, energy-saving, high-precision, and rapid manufacturing of electronics with complex 3D architectures. Despite these promises, methods for printable oxide inks are often hampered by challenges in achieving the printing resolution required by today's MEMS electronics and integration capabilities with various other electronic components. Here, a novel, facile ink design strategy is presented to overcome these challenges. Specifically, we first prepare a high-solid loading (∼78 wt%) colloidal suspension that contains polyethyleneimine (PEI)-coated stannic dioxide (SnO2) nanoparticles, followed by PEI desorption that is induced by nitric acid (HNO3) titration to optimize the rheological properties of the printable inks. Our achieved ∼3–5 μm printing resolution is at least an order of magnitude higher than those of other printed oxide studies employing nanoparticle ink-based printing methods demonstrated previously. Finally, various SnO2 structures were directly printed on a MEMS-based microelectrode for acetylene detection application. The gas sensitivity measurements reveal that the device performance is strongly dependent on the printed SnO2 structures. Specifically, the 3D structured SnO2 gas sensor exhibits the highest response of ∼ 29.9 to 100 ppm acetylene with the fastest total response time of ∼ 65.8 s. This work presents a general ink formulation and printing strategy for functional oxides, which further provides a pathway for the additive manufacturing of oxide-based MEMSs.