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Nanoscribe’s Nano 3D Printer Used to Study Animal Shapes and Bioinspired Materials

Researchers often use artificial models fabricated via 3D printing to understand natural phenomena. In the following you will find examples of additively manufactured structures and bioinspired materials – inspired by nature, printed with Nanoscribe‘s Professional GT nano 3D printer – e.g. artificial gecko setae for the investigation of adhesive properties as well as 3D printed replicas of moth antennae.

Additive Manufacturing of Bioinspired Materials

Plants and animals have particular properties which are often related to their composition at the nano- and micrometer scale. Researchers and engineers learn from living organisms and use their observations for creating bioinspired materials by means of Nanoscribe 3D printers.

Natural systems with millions of years of evolution inspire technological innovation in the design and development of functional and smart materials. Nanoscribe‘s Photonic Professional GT offers highest resolution in 3D printing and geometric design freedom to emulate biological structures at nano-, micro- and millimeter scales. Shape, size and distribution of the structures can be easily changed in order to investigate and optimize materials. Due to structural design at the microscale, materials can adopt properties such as hydrophobicity, elasticity or coloration ‒ mimicking intricate architectures and finest features observed in nature.Plants and animals have particular properties which are often related to their composition at the nano- and micrometer scale. Researchers and engineers learn from living organisms and use their observations for creating bioinspired materials by means of Nanoscribe’s 3D printers.

The challenge lies in creating a 3D micropattern capable of air retention, hydrophobicity and water condensation required for fog collection inspired by salvinia molesta leaves. By creating periodic arrays of crown-like hairs, hundred times smaller than the natural model, are printed. Structures are stable when submerged in water and air trapping is demonstrated.

3D Printed Gecko Toes

In order to investigate the adhesive properties of gecko toes, Nanoscribe clients at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Pontedera have fabricated artificial gecko setae on the same size scale as their natural counterparts.

Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology in Pontedera have investigated the adhesive properties of gecko toes and have fabricated artificial gecko setae on the same size scale as their natural counterparts by using Nanoscribe’s 3D printer Photonic Professional GT.

The toe surface of geckos exhibits a hierarchical topography. This multilevel hierarchy of branches of the gecko setae allows for a large contact area to a surface and thus increased amount of attractive Van der Waals forces that lead to adhesiveness even on slippery surfaces. Force measurements of the 3D printed artificial gecko setae demonstrate adhesive properties that could be used for the development of dry and reversible sticky tapes.

Replicated Moth Antennae

Male moths use their antennae to rapidly detect food and female pheromones over large distances from up to four kilometers away, better than artificial sensors of similar size. Moths use chemical communication for sensing pheromones in less than a second and this can reduce significantly the time that typical sensors take for detecting gases in minutes. Moth antennae thus inspire a new approach to detect chemical leaks, drugs and explosives. The olfactory ability of the moths is based on the antenna hairy design that allows an increased contact to a large volume of air containing pheromones particles in low concentrations.

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Lab and the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently published their studies on the natural olfaction structure of male moth antennae that could serve to improve performance of preconcentrators for chemical sensing. They analyzed the natural dimensions and the hierarchical structure of the antenna design and fabricated a 1:1 scale replica of the moth antenna using Nanoscribe’s two-photon polymerization based 3D printer. The antenna structure consists of suspending features with a three level hierarchy of branches at the micro scale. In this study, researchers have developed novel preconcentrators for sensing substances faster than typical gas sensors. The 3D printed antenna could be used for odor collection analysis and in future applications for sensing dangerous substances.

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