Dishit P. Parekh, PhD Student, North Carolina State University
Gallium-based liquid metal alloys offer the electrical and thermal benefits of various metals like gallium and indium, combined with the ease of printing due to its low viscosity (~2x water). Despite having high surface tension (~10x water), these metals build mechanically stable structures due to the formation of a thin (~3 nm thick) surface oxide. The oxide skin is passivating, forms spontaneously in presence of air or dissolved oxygen on the surface of the metal and allows us to direct-write planar as well as free-standing, out-of-plane conductive microstructures down to a resolution of ~10 microns, on-demand, using a 4-axis pneumatic dispensing robot customized from a desktop CNC machine at relatively low pressures (~10s of kPa). We have demonstrated rapid prototyping of functional electronics such as flexible and stretchable antennas for radio-frequency defense communications, as well as consumer-based electronic devices like inductive power coils for wireless charging of smartphones and wearable thermoelectric generators for energy-harvesting applications. We have also exhibited the patterning of 3D multilayered microchannels with vasculature using these printed liquid metals as a sacrificial template at room-temperature that can be employed in numerous lab-on-a-chip devices to enable inexpensive fabrication of personalized healthcare sensors.