Process nets cheap microstructures

June 2/9, 2004

Researchers from Boston College have demonstrated that it's possible to use relatively inexpensive polymers, or plastics, to construct tiny structures using multiphoton-absorption photopolymerization, a technique that uses a laser beam to harden liquid plastics in intricate patterns.

They used the method to fabricate tiny plastic structures on a human hair without damaging the hair. This was possible because the prepolymer formula they used has a low power threshold for fabrication.

The method could be used to construct miniature scientific instruments and materials like the photonic crystals and fiber interconnects used in optical communications equipment. It could also eventually be used to fabricate structures on a wide range of biomaterials, including microdevices built directly on skin or blood vessels, without damaging the living matter, according to the researchers.

The method enables the use of common, off-the-shelf materials to make the prepolymer formula. At the same time, it allows the researchers to control the composition and therefore physical properties of the final polymer.

The researchers are working on using the process to deposit materials other than polymers and to replicate structures in parallel.

The method could be used in practical applications within a few years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the June 1, 2004 issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.

Page One

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