London, April 23 : A team of engineers has developed a process by which it is now possible to 3D print complex forms of glass.
The scientists at the Germany-based Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) mixed nanoparticles of high-purity quartz glass and a small quantity of liquid polymer and allow this mixture to be cured by light at specific points by means of stereolithography.
The material, which has remained liquid, is washed out in a solvent bath, leaving only the desired cured structure. The polymer still mixed in this glass structure is subsequently removed by heating.
"The shape initially resembles that of a pound cake; it is still unstable, and therefore the glass is sintered in a final step, that is, heated so that the glass particles are fused," said Bastian E. Rapp from KIT Institute of Microstructure Technology.
The scientists presented the method in the journal Nature.
"We present a new method, an innovation in materials processing, in which the material of the piece manufactured is high-purity quartz glass with the respective chemical and physical properties," added Rapp.
The glass structures made by the KIT scientists show resolutions in the range of a few micrometers -- one micrometer corresponding to one thousandth of a millimeter.
3D-formed glass can be used in data technology.