In an advanced development, scientists have developed a process to 3D-print objects using glass.
Researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany created this technique by mixing nanoparticles of high-purity quartz glass and a small quantity of liquid polymer and allowed the mixture to be cured by light at specific points — by means of stereolithography.
What is stereolithography?
It is a form of 3D-printing technology used for creating models, prototypes, patterns and production parts in a layer by layer fashion using photopolymerisation, a process by which light causes chains of molecules to link, forming polymers. The material, which remains a liquid, is washed out in a solvent bath, leaving only the desired cured structure. The polymer still mixed in this glass structure is subsequently removed by heating.
“The shape initially resembles that of a pound cake, it is still unstable, and therefore the glass is sintered in a final step — heated so that the glass particles are fused”, said Bastian E. Rapp of KIT.
“We present a new method, an innovation in materials processing, in which the material of the piece manufactured is high-purity quartz glass with the respective chemical and physical properties”, Mr. Rapp added.
The research which was published in journal 'Nature', can be used in data technology.
“The next plus one generation of computers will use light, which requires complicated processor structures, 3D technology could be used, for instance, to make small, complex structures out of a large number of very small optical components of different orientations”, researchers said.