Low temperature method for 3D printing nanoscale optical grade glass

June 01, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Hybrid organic-inorganic polymer resins enable three-dimensional (3D) printing of nanoscale optical-level glass at temperatures roughly half of what other approaches require, report the researchers (“Sinter-free low-temperature route to nanoscale 3D printing optical grade glass”).

According to the authors, this approach could help redefine the paradigm for manufacturing silica glass in free form and enable its use in a variety of new technological applications. Silica glass has a unique combination of properties, making it one of the most important materials for modern engineering applications.

Its optical transparency, and its thermal, chemical and mechanical characteristics make it ideal for a wide range of microsystem technologies, including micro-optical, photonic, microelectromechanical and microfluidic systems.

However, conventional glass manufacturing methods rely on high temperatures and/or shaping techniques which limit how small the components can be made.

Although techniques for 3D printing glass at the nanoscale using two-photon polymerization (TPP) have greatly advanced, the temperatures required for sintering silica-based glass resin particles often exceed the melting points of other materials used in electrical circuits, making on-chip fabrication of glass components impossible. worthy.

To overcome this limitation, Jens Bauer and colleagues developed a sinter-free TPP 3D printing approach to fabricate freeform fused silica nanostructures. Using polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) resin as a raw material, the authors demonstrated the ability to 3D print transparent fused silica glass nanostructures at only 650 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 500 °C lower than the sintering temperature required by other approaches, bringing manufacturing temperatures below the melting point of materials and essential microsystem components.

What’s more, the high-resolution glass structure produced by the method of Bauer et al. exhibit excellent optical qualities, enabling their use in visible light nanophonics.

“The limited firing temperature requirements of the approach shown by Bauer et al. enabling the fabrication of direct-to-substrate miniaturized devices, such as optical fibers and chips, which enables process automation and high precision,” write Paolo Colombo and Giorgia Franchin in related Perspectives.

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