UMD Researchers Create New Tech for Complex Micro Structures, Build Microscale Tetherball

Posted on July 15, 2012

Microscopic Tetherball Pole

University of Maryland Chemistry Professor John Fourkas and his research group have developed new materials and nanofabrication techniques for building miniaturized versions of components needed for medical diagnostics, sensors and other applications. The researchers created materials that allow the simultaneous 3D manipulation of microscopic objects using optical tweezers and a unique point-by-point method for lithography.

In an article published in the August issue of Chemical Science, the researchers explain how a combination of these techniques allows them to assemble complex 3D structures from multiple microscopic components. Fourkas and his group also showcase 3D structures composed of glass microspheres, a microscopic tetherball pole, and a microscopic needle eye that has been threaded. To create the microscale tetherball pole a microthread is fabricated from a microbead. Then optical tweezers are used to bring the end of the thread to the top of the pole, where it is attached via MAP. The optical tweezers are then used to wrap the thread around the pole, after which the bead is immobilized using MAP.

Fourkas says, "These materials have opened the door to a suite of new techniques for micro and nanofabrication. For instance, we have been able to perform braiding and weaving with threads that have a diameter that is more than 100 times smaller than that of a human hair. One of the exciting aspects of this set of techniques is that it is compatible with a wide range of materials. For instance, we can weave together threads with completely different compositions to create functional microfabrics or build microscopic devices 'brick by brick' with building blocks that have different chemical or physical properties."

Glass Microsphere Structure

Photos: John Fourkas, University of Maryland

More from Science Space & Robots