Usually when we hear about liquids being 3D printed, we’re talking about liquid metal.
But aside from 3D printed innovations only visible in water and using a 3D printer to create images with water, good old H2O has not exactly been at the forefront in the 3D printing world. Until now. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), managed by the University of California for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, recently determined a way to 3D print structures that are made completely of liquid materials.
Tom Russell, a visiting faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, explained, “It’s a new class of material that can reconfigure itself and it has the potential to be customised into liquid reaction vessels for many uses, from chemical synthesis to ion transport to catalysis.”
The team injects threads of water into silicone oil using a modified 3D printer, sculpting liquid tubes inside an additional liquid. Learning how to create liquid tubes inside another liquid and then figuring out how to automate the process, were crucial advances in getting the method to work properly.