text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
Search Multimedia
Image
Video
Audio
More
Multimedia in the News
NSF Executive Staff
News Archive
 

Email this pagePrint this page
3-D printing of liquid metals


A 3-D-printed structure created out of liquid metal drops

This 3-D structure was created out of liquid metal drops. The liquid metal, a eutectic alloy of gallium and indium, is similar to water but it can be patterned into 3-D shapes due to a thin, solid, oxide skin that forms on its surface. Researchers at North Carolina State University developed the 3-D printing technology and techniques, which can create free-standing structures made of liquid metal at room temperature. This structure was created using a technique that involves stacking the liquid metal droplets on top of each other, much like a stack of oranges at the supermarket. The droplets adhere to one another but retain their shape, and do not merge into a single, larger droplet.

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

Dickey acknowledged important work by Collin Ladd, an undergraduate working in his lab "who was indispensable to the project." "He helped develop the concept, and literally created some of this technology out of spare parts he found himself," said Dickey. Ladd was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates supplement to Dickey's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award (CMMI 09-54321) and was partially supported by NSF's ASSIST ERC at NC State (EEC 11-60483). Ladd is lead author of a paper describing this work that was published online in Advanced Materials (see 3-D Printing of Free Standing Liquid Metal Microstructures).

Dickeys team is currently exploring how to further develop this technique and others created in his lab, as well as how to use them in various electronics applications and in conjunction with established 3-D printing technologies.

To read more about this research, see the NC State news story Researchers Build 3-D Structures Out of Liquid Metal. To view the printing technique in action, see the YouTube video 3-D Printing of Liquid Metals at Room Temperature. (Date of Image: 2012)

SORRY: THIS IMAGE IS NOT AVAILABLE IN HIGH RESOLUTION FORMAT

Credit: Collin Ladd, North Carolina State University

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (237 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

 



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page