Home Research & Education Scientists 3D Print Smallest Ever Lattice Structures of Unprecedented Strength

Scientists 3D Print Smallest Ever Lattice Structures of Unprecedented Strength

A group of scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have created the smallest ever lattice structure up to date. The so called glassy carbon nanolattice has been produced using 3D laser lithography and pyrolysis.

The researchers used Nanoscribe’s Photonic Professional 3D printer, working with a laser-based two-photon absorption process, where two photons of infrared light are absorbed simultaneously. This process allows for 3D printing on a microscale.

The ultra-strong nanolattices created are made of single struts shorter than 1 µm and diameters as small as 0.2 µm. This was achieved by a heating treatment in vacuum, that followed the actual printing process. It allowed for the lattices to shrink isotropically by 80%.

By pyrolysis 3D-printed polymeric microlattices isotropically shrink by 80% and transform to glassy carbon nanolattices. Image: Nanoscribe
By pyrolysis 3D-printed polymeric microlattices isotropically shrink by 80% and transform to glassy carbon nanolattices. Image: Nanoscribe

These nanolattice materials exhibit effective strengths up to 1 GPa at a density well below that of liquid water. Therefore, diamond remains the only bulk material with a notably higher strength-to-density ratio.

According to researchers the glassy carbon nanolattices are a significant step forward in field of lightweight mechanical metamaterials. This could be the base for stronger, tougher, lighter and more durable materials in future. The structures might find application in electrodes, filters or optical components.

Glassy carbon is a high-tech material made of pure carbon and combines glassy, ceramic with graphite properties. The scientists explained that the structure is very close to the theoretical limit load-bearing capacity for glassy carbon nanolattices, with diamond being the only solid with a higher specific stability.


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