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Chaotic printing: using chaos to fabricate densely packed micro- and nanostructures at high resolution and speed


Nature generates densely packed micro- and nanostructures to enable key functionalities in cells, tissues, and other materials. Current fabrication techniques, due to limitations in resolution and speed, are far less effective at creating microstructures. Yet, the development of extensive amounts of surface area per unit volume will enable applications and manufacturing strategies not possible today. Here, we introduce chaotic printing - the use of chaotic flows for the rapid generation of complex, high-resolution microstructures. A simple and deterministic chaotic flow is induced in a viscous liquid, and its repeated stretching and folding action deforms an "ink" (i.e., a drop of a miscible liquid, fluorescent beads, or cells) at an exponential rate to render a densely packed lamellar microstructure that is then preserved by curing or photocrosslinking. This exponentially fast creation of fine microstructures exceeds the limits of resolution and speed of the currently available 3D printing techniques. Moreover, we show that the architecture of the microstructure to be created with chaotic printing can be predicted by mathematical modelling. We envision diverse applications for this technology, including the development of densely packed catalytic surfaces and highly complex multi-lamellar and multi-component tissue-like structures for biomedical and electronics applications.

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