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Campus News : October 2011
2 Campus News October 2011 University of Wollongong www.uow.edu.au OPINION For 20 years, materials scientists have worked tirelessly to incorporate different levels of functionality into materials. We are now set to witness the emergence of the next generation of devices for energy harvesting and medical bionic applications, as long as we can figure out how to make them. The challenge for manufacturers is set. For next generation devices, we require next generation manufacturing. Work in the field of advanced materials science has, for example, led to the development of new organic materials capable of converting sunlight into electricity, and other materials capable of transmitting electronic signals that facilitate the reconnection of nerve cells. Although different, these examples both highlight the need for innovative device fabrication and manufacturing. They each require spatial distribution of soft organic materials with different functionality. For optimal performance, that work needs to be done at nanodomain resolution, where scientists can better control the material properties. Traditional fabrication approaches do not allow this level of resolution to be achieved, so for these materials to be incorporated into useable devices, the next generation of fabrication and manufacturing techniques must emerge. Additive fabrication turns existing manufacturing practice on its head and creates material structures and devices from the bottom up. A number of additive fabrication systems are currently available and have recently been installed in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) processing and device fabrication laboratories at UOW's Innovation Campus. The Dimension uPrint Plus fused deposition modelling system for the production of low resolution single polymer components and fittings is based on extrusion printing. The Objet Connex 350, which is state-of-the- art commercial polymer rapid prototyping technology, is based on inkjet printing and is capable of 50 micron resolution in creating structures that contain multiple polymers with different mechanical properties. The Realizer SLM 50 metal prototyping system allows production of components in stainless steel and titanium alloy, and is capable of producing components with resolution in the order of 50 micron. This suite of techniques provides exciting new capabilities. However each of them is limited in the materials that can be used and the resolution that can be achieved. Additive fabrication of devices containing functional materials needs to involve the sequential addition of material components with spatial distribution in the nanodomain if optimal performance is to be achieved. The additive fabrication approach is essential when the device comprises a number of different materials with different properties which must be spatially prearranged. Consider for example a flexible solar cell device that requires a photoactive polymer to be integrated with a complementary polymer, the combination of which enables light harvesting, charge generation and collection of the associated electrical energy provided they are integrated with nanodimensional control. The optimal structure involves the two materials distributed in 3D with nanometre resolution. Constructing a conduit for nerve repair requires a 3D printing approach that enables biopolymers, organic conducting polymers, proteins, drugs and even living cells to be assembled with each component spatially distributed in order to illicit the cellular responses required. This takes the requirements for additive fabrication to a new level where formulations that enable delicate biological entities to be subjected to often harsh fabrication environments are required. Faced with these fabrication challenges, it is important that we have invested in the state-of-the art additive fabrication equipment recently acquired. However, given our mission to continue to develop fabrication protocols in parallel with advances in materials, "off the shelf" machinery does not always meet our demands. As such, ACES strives to be at the forefront of new developments in fabrication. We intend to continue to develop appropriate strategic international alliances so that we can achieve this. For example, in the area of biofabrication we have established a collaborative arrangement with the Korean Institute of Materials and Machinery that has delivered a flexible and versatile printing system capable of producing 3D constructs containing living cells and printing customised bio-inks produced as a result of our bionics research program. We have also developed customised ink jet and extrusion printing systems capable of printing our highly functional materials. Development of both of these systems has benefited greatly from the input of our collaborator Professor Paul Calvert from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Dip Pen Nanolitography presents to us an approach capable of wet printing patterns of functional materials with nanodimensional resolution. Recent projects in our laboratories have focused on the development of inks to enable printing of conducting polymers and biomolecules with nanometre resolution. We have also recently developed novel bio-ink formulations enabling the printing of living cells. It is important that we continue to develop materials chemistries and formulations that enhance the capabilities of emerging fabrication systems. Revolutions in fabrication can only occur in the right environment. Those with the driving need, in our case users of advances in energy and medical bionics, must work hand in hand with materials scientists and device fabrication engineers to bring the dream to life. GW Next gen manufacturing the new frontier By Professor Gordon Wallace* * Professor Gordon Wallace is Executive Director at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electomaterials Science (ACES) and the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong. In August Professor Wallace was named among a select group of Australian researchers who have received Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowships -- highly prized awards designed to develop and retain Australian skills. The Fellowship will result in funding of more than $2.6 million over the next five years. It will support postdoctoral fellows and PhD students who will work with Professor Wallace on his groundbreaking bionics research program. The Laureate Fellowships in 2009 replaced the ARC Federation Fellowships of which Professor Wallace was UOW's first and only recipient. For he's a Laureate Fellow