Transforming the Landscape of Material Discovery with High Throughput Combinatorial Printing

Posted on: 2023-05-11 13:50


In the relentless pursuit of advancing fields such as clean energy and environmental sustainability, the discovery and optimization of new materials stand as a crucial cornerstone. Traditional methods, like the Edisonian trial-and-error process or combinatorial deposition, have served us well, but they bear limitations in speed, resource efficiency, and material options. This is where the transformative potential of a novel technique, High-Throughput Combinatorial Printing (HTCP), steps into the spotlight.

The Dawn of a New Era in Material Discovery

Built on the foundation of in-situ mixing and printing in the aerosol phase, HTCP brings to the table instantaneous tuning of the mixing ratio of a broad range of materials, an achievement beyond the reach of conventional multimaterial printing techniques. The implications are profound: with HTCP, we unlock the potential to create compositionally complex materials that have been elusive through conventional manufacturing approaches.

The traditional combinatorial material deposition methods, such as cosputtering, have indeed paved the way for rapid screening of new materials. However, they suffer from limitations due to their high-energy nature and the lack of swift mixing mechanisms. The solution? A marriage of the versatility of additive manufacturing and micro- and nanoscale building blocks.

Aerosols: The Key to In-situ Mixing and Printing

The heart of the HTCP method lies in the innovative use of aerosols for in-situ mixing and printing. To refine this approach, a meticulous investigation into ink formulation, aerosol mixing and interaction, and printing parameter optimization was undertaken, using a combination of experimental techniques and computational fluid dynamics simulations.

Imagine two or more inks being atomized into aerosols containing microscale ink droplets. These streams are then mixed in a single nozzle and aerodynamically focused by a co-flowing sheath gas before deposition. This very process was meticulously explored, with a particular focus on creating a one-dimensional gradient material library through orthogonal and parallel gradient printing strategies. The results? Orthogonal printing emerged as a more versatile contender due to its wide tolerance for different printing speeds.

No alt text provided for this image

Revolutionizing Material Discovery with HTCP

The true power of HTCP lies in its potential to revolutionize material discovery and optimization. The ability to control the deposition of two materials by adjusting individual ink flow rates and mixing two ink aerosols swiftly paves the way for efficient exploration of new material combinations and gradients.

Investigations into the effect of ink flow rates on material deposition revealed that the thickness of the printed films increases with the ink flow rate. This was observed across various types of nano-material inks. The process also demonstrated excellent tolerance to material dimensions and morphology, showcasing its versatility in the rapid fabrication of a broad range of inorganic and organic combinatorial materials.

HTCP in Action: From Thermo-electrics to Biomaterials

The real-world applications of HTCP are vast and exciting. For instance, in the realm of thermoelectric applications, HTCP was employed to rapidly optimize sulfur doping concentrations in printed Bi2Te2.7Se0.3 materials, revealing an optimal sulfur doping concentration that resulted in significantly improved thermoelectric performance.

In another experiment, HTCP was used to fabricate functionally graded materials by printing gradient polyurethane films. The resulting gradient mixing was visualized with fluorescent dyes and tested to reveal the distribution of Young’s modulus, a measure of material stiffness, across the film. This could open up possibilities in the creation of biomaterials.

Another exciting application lies in printing reactive inks that undergo chemical/biochemical reactions, as demonstrated in an experiment involving the co-printing of graphene oxides with ascorbic acid.

Conclusion: The Future of Material Discovery is Here

In conclusion, High-Throughput Combinatorial Printing (HTCP) stands as a remarkable development in the field of material discovery and optimization. It's a step-change that transcends the limitations of traditional methods, offering a versatile, efficient, and resourceful solution to the challenges faced by researchers and industry professionals alike.

From enhancing thermoelectric performance to enabling the creation of new biomaterials, HTCP has shown the potential to revolutionize a multitude of sectors. The use of aerosols for in-situ mixing and printing, the ability to swiftly manipulate material combinations, and the opportunity to explore a broad range of organic and inorganic materials are just a few ways HTCP is changing the game.

Read the full article here