Researchers have developed a way to coax microscopic particles and droplets into precise patterns by harnessing the power of sound in air. The implications for printing, especially in the fields of medicine and electronics, are far-reaching.
The scientists created precise, predetermined patterns on surfaces from aerosol droplets or particles using computer-controlled ultrasound. The technique, called sonolithography, patterns dense clouds of material in air at scale and algorithmically controls how the material settles into shapes. The researchers believe the technique could revolutionize printing, improving the speed, cost, and precision of non-contact patterning techniques in air.
Sonolithography enables gentle, non-contact, and rapid patterning of cells and biomaterials on surfaces. Tissue engineering can use biofabrication methods to build defined structures of cells and materials.
The objects being manipulated are the size of water drops in clouds. The ability to move such small things with such fine control could allow the direction of aerosol sprays with extreme precision in applications such as drug delivery or wound healing.
Beyond biomedicine applications, the technique is applicable to a variety of materials. Printed electronics is another area the team is developing, with sonolithography being used to arrange conductive inks into circuits and components.