Author: Gabriel Smith
Date: October 26, 2023 at 2pm EST
Location: EGR-2164, Martin Hall
- Professor Sarah Bergbreiter, Advisor
- Professor Ryan Sochol, Chair
- Professor Don DeVoe
- Professor Hugh Bruck
- Professor Jeffrey Shultz, Dean’s Representative
Title: DIRECT LASER WRITE PROCESSES FOR SPIDER-INSPIRED MICROHYDRAULICS AND MULTI-SCALE LIQUID METAL DEVICES
Direct Laser Write (DLW) through two-photon polymerization (2PP) empowers us to delve into the realm of genuine three-dimensional design complexity for microsystems, enabling features smaller than a single micrometer. This dissertation develops two novel fabrication processes that leverage DLW for functional fluidic microsystems. In the first process, we are inspired by arachnids that use internal hemolymph pressure to actuate extension in one or more of their leg joints. The inherent large foot displacement to body length ratio that arachnids can achieve through hydraulics relative to muscle-based actuators is both energy and volumetrically efficient. Until recent advances in nano/microscale 3-D printing with 2PP, the physical realization of synthetic complex ‘soft’ joints would have been impossible to replicate and fill with hydraulic fluid into a sealed sub-millimeter system. This dissertation demonstrates the smallest scale 3D-printed hydraulic actuator 4.9 × 10−4 mm^3 by more than an order of magnitude. The use of stiff 2PP polymers with micron-scale dimensions enables compliant membranes similar to exoskeletons seen in nature without the requirement for low-modulus materials. The bio-inspired system is designed to mimic similar hydraulic pressure-activated mechanisms in arachnid joints utilized for large displacement motions relative to body length. Using variations on this actuator design, we demonstrate the ability to transmit forces with relatively large magnitudes (milliNewtons) in 3D space, as well as the ability to direct motion that is useful towards microrobotics and medical applications. Microscale hydraulic actuation provides a promising approach to the transmission of large forces and 3D motions at small scales, previously unattainable in wafer-level 2D micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).
The second fabrication process focuses on incorporating functionality through the use of liquid metals in 3D DLW structures. Room temperature eutectic Gallium Indium (eGaIn)-based liquid metal devices with stretchable, conductive, and reconfigurable behavior show great promise across many areas of technology, including robotics, communications, and medicine. Microfluidics provide one means of creating eGaIn devices and circuits, but these devices are typically limited to larger feature sizes. Developments in 3D printing via DLW have enabled sub-100 µm complex microfluidic devices, though interfacing microfluidic devices manufactured with DLW to larger millimeter-scale systems is difficult. The reduced channel diameter creates challenges for removing resist from the channels, filling microchannels with eGaIn, and electrically integrating them to larger channels or other circuitry. These challenges have prevented microscale liquid metal devices from being used more widely. In this dissertation, we demonstrate a facile, low-cost multiscale process for printing DLW microchannels and devices onto centimeter-scale custom fluidic channel substrates fabricated via stereolithography (SLA). This work demonstrates a robust interface between the two independently printed materials and greatly simplifies the filling of eGaIn microfluidic channels down to 50 µm in diameter, with the potential to achieve even smaller feature sizes of liquid metals. This work also demonstrates eGaIn coils with resistance of 43-770 mΩ and inductance of 2-4 nH. As a result, this process empowers us to manufacture interfaces that are not only low-temperature but also conductive and flexible. These interfaces find their application in connecting with sensors, actuators, and integrated circuits, thereby opening new avenues in the field of 3D electronics. Furthermore, our approach extends the lower limits of size-dependent properties for passive electronic components like resistors, capacitors, and inductors crafted from liquid metal, expanding the frontiers of possibilities in miniature electronic design.