The National Science Foundation recently awarded $400,000 to Virginia Tech as part of an initiative to build the theoretical and experimental foundations of scalable, 3-D printing at the nano-level.

Rayne Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, will use the award for Additive Nano-Manufacturing of Resilient Materials to develop technologies to allow researchers to 3-D print at the nano-level and scale up their creations.

“Current commercially available additive manufacturing technology doesn’t include a printer of the resolution and scalability needed to do work at the nanoscale level,” Zheng said. “This grant program will support building the foundations needed to underpin scalable additive nano-manufacturing.”

Zheng’s research will look at how to create three-dimensional constructs with nanoscale features, with the goal of creating materials that are extremely strong mechanically and have exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity.

Using controlled precision optics and photosensitive materials, Zheng and his team will work toward developing and understanding the processes that produce scalable nano-architected materials that will be lightweight and capable of energy storage, among other applications.

“In our early work we’ve created 3-D nano-architected materials that are simultaneously strong and damage tolerant,” Zheng said. “However, we realize there are challenges with current high-precision 3-D manufacturing technologies in scaling up nano patterns to sizes comparable to the size of the palm of a hand. With the support of the NSF, we hope to make a leap forward, gaining new knowledge on the underpinnings of high-resolution additive nano-manufacturing of scalable materials and components.”  

Written by Rosaire Bushey

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