Berkeley Labs has 3D-printed an all-liquid device that, with the click of a button, can be repeatedly reconfigured on demand to serve a wide range of applications – from making battery materials to screening drug candidates. The 3D-printed device can be programmed to carry out multistep, complex chemical reactions on demand and can be reconfigured to efficiently and precisely combine molecules to form very specific products.
The multitasking device can also be programmed to function like an artificial circulatory system that separates molecules flowing through the channel and automatically removes unwanted byproducts while it continues to print a sequence of bridges to specific catalysts, and carry out the steps of chemical synthesis.
Systems comprised of immiscible liquids held in non-equilibrium shapes by the interfacial assembly and jamming of nanoparticle−polymer surfactants have significant potential to advance catalysis, chemical separations, energy storage and conversion. Spatially directing functionality within them and coupling processes in both phases remains a challenge. Here, we exploit nanoclay−polymer surfactant assemblies at an oil−water interface to produce a semi-permeable membrane between the liquids, and from them all-liquid fluidic devices with bespoke properties. Flow channels are fabricated using micropatterned 2D substrates and liquid-in-liquid 3D printing. The anionic walls of the device can be functionalized with cationic small molecules, enzymes, and colloidal nanocrystal catalysts. Multi-step chemical transformations can be conducted within the channels under flow, as can selective mass transport across the liquid−liquid interface for in-line separations. These all-liquid systems become automated using pumps, detectors, and control systems, revealing a latent ability for chemical logic and learning.
The ability to shape immiscible liquids into prescribed architectures and reconfigure them on-demand is an emerging design paradigm in soft-matter materials chemistry. To trap a liquid indefinitely in a nonequilibrium shape within another liquid, a suitable elastic film must be assembled at the liquid–liquid interface.
The 3D all-liquid fluidic devices that are infinitely reconfigurable and endowed with spatially programmable functions. In turn, we gain insights into their potential for rendering chemical systems of arbitrary complexity to perform tasks, including chemical separations, multi-step chemical transformations, and chemical logic.
SOURCES- Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, Nature Communications
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com