"The fabrication technique produces a pervasive network of interconnected cylindrical channels, which can range from 10 to 300 microns in diameter," said Jennifer Lewis, a professor of materials science and engineering and of chemical engineering at Illinois. "Our approach opens up new avenues for device design that are currently inaccessible by conventional lithographic methods."
The microvascular networks also could be combined with self-healing functionality, "providing an analog to the human circulatory system for the next generation of autonomous healing materials," said Scott White, a professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. "The embedded network would serve as a circulatory system for the continuous transport of repair chemicals to sites of damage within the material."
The scientists report their findings in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the journal Nature Materials, and posted on its Web site www.nature.com/materials.
To create a microvascular network, Lewis, White and graduate student Daniel Therriault begin by fabricating a scaffold using a robotic deposition apparatus and a fugitive organic ink. A computer-controlled robot squeezes the ink out of a syringe, almost like a cake decorator, building the scaffold layer by layer.
"The ink exits the nozzle as a continuous, rod-like filament that is deposited onto a moving platform, yielding a two-dimensional pattern," Lewis sa
Contact: James E. Kloeppel
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign