You’re bound to appreciate these innovations if you are a fan of nanotechnology or Ant-Man, a Marvel comics character. Researchers from MIT have innovated a way to shrink to one-thousandth of the original size any 3D object of any shape. It is reported that materials like metals, quantum dots and DNA can be patterned down to the nanoscale.
Reports from MIT News are that with the new technique any shape and structure can be created by patterning a polymer scaffold with laser. The materials are attached to the scaffold and shrunk to one-thousandth the original volume. “It’s a way of putting nearly any kind of material into a 3D pattern with nanoscale precision,” said Edward Boyden, senior author of research and associate professor of biological engineering and brain cognitive sciences at MIT.
Fields like optics, medicine, and robotics will find this innovation benefitting, because biological and material science labs heavily rely on this technique, this will more widely access and interest researchers. There are all kinds of things you can do with this,” said Boyden. “Democratizing nanofabrication could open up frontiers we can’t yet imagine,” he added.
Boyden and his students developed the technique after brainstorming to find methods to overcome previous obstacles in creating nanostructures. Boyle and his team adopted a method for high-resolution imaging of brain tissues that his lab developed years back. The previous technique is known as expansion microscopy and “involves embedding tissue into a hydrogel and then expanding it, allowing for high-resolution imaging with a regular microscope,” MIT News reported. The new technique enables 3D visualization of tissues and cells, a technique highly utilized in the fields of medicine and biology.
When the process was reversed the researchers learned that creation of large-scale objects is possible, where objects embedded in expanded hydrogels and then shrink to one-thousandth the original size, a technique is known as “implosion fabrication.” Polyacrylate (commonly found in diapers) a very absorbent material is required by both techniques as
“Using two-photon microscopy, which allows for precise targeting of points deep within a structure, the researchers attach fluorescein molecules to specific locations within the gel. The fluorescein molecules act as anchors that can bind to other types of molecules that the researchers add,” MIT News reports. The anchors are then attached “where you want with light, and later you can attach whatever you want to the anchors,” explained Boyden.
Samuel Rodrigues a graduate student and one of the lead authors of this paper said. “People have been trying to invent better equipment to make smaller nanomaterials for years, but we realized that if you just use existing systems and embed your materials in this gel, you can shrink them down to the nanoscale, without distorting the patterns.” The MIT team is searching for potential application of this technology.