Sonolithography – Shaping the Future of Printing with Sound

A group of researchers from the Universities of Bath and Bristol has developed a way to coax microscopic particles and droplets into precise patterns by using just the power of sound. This promising method opens up many implications for printing, especially in the field of medicine and electronics.

We are always amazed to see the scientific advances bringing innovative ideas to life in exciting future technologies. One of those truly inspiring advances is now coming from a group of researchers in the United Kingdom who have developed a way to harness the power of sound in air to coax microscopic particles and droplets into precise patterns – a technology that also has far-reaching implications for printing, especially in the fields of medicine and electronics.

The Potential For Biofabrication

The group of researchers from the Universities of Bath and Bristol are using sound to shape the future of printing. Their new technique ‘sonolithography’ has shown that creating precise, pre-determined patterns on surfaces from aerosol droplets or particles, using computer-controlled ultrasound, is indeed possible. In the University of Bath’s press release, one of the scientists, Professor Mike Fraser from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath, explained the progress: 

“The power of ultrasound has already been shown to levitate small particles. We are excited to have hugely expanded the range of applications by patterning dense clouds of material in air at scale and being able to algorithmically control how the material settles into shapes.”

A technique like this could revolutionise printing: non-contact patterning techniques in air have the potential to improve speed, cost, and precision. The potential of sonolithography for biofabrication is already shown in their current results. Lead author of the article and research associate in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bristol, Dr Jenna Shapiro, believes that their work is able to provide gentle, non-contact and rapid patterning of cells and biomaterials which can be used for tissue engineering, building defined structures of cells and materials.

Precise Control

See the team’s presentation of their innovative technique in this video:

The sound-based technique enables its users to move incredibly small particles with fine control in a precision that has never before been seen, opening up many applications such as the ability to precisely direct aerosol sprays for drug delivery or wound healing or even manipulating the size of water droplets in clouds. But it is not only an interesting advancement for biomedicine, the team has also shown a variety of applicable materials for their technique. Sonolithography could be used to arrange conductive inks into circuits and components for printed electronics, an area the team is keen to focus on next in their development. Sound waves had previously been used to revolutionize 3D printing back in 2018 by researchers from Harvard University.

Read more in their paper published in Advanced Material Technologies.

We are looking forward to seeing them find more possible applications for their technique in the future! Come back to our drupa blog to stay up-to-date on this and many other future technologies in development right now for various printing sectors or share your own favorite projects right here or on our social media accounts.

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