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|Researcher Dr Amgad Rezk with the lithium niobate chip.|
In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have harnessed the power of sound waves to enable precision micro- and nano-manufacturing.
The researchers have demonstrated how high-frequency sound waves can be used to precisely control the spread of thin film fluid along a specially-designed chip, in a paper published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
With thin film technology the bedrock of microchip and microstructure manufacturing, the pioneering research offers a significant advance - potential applications range from thin film coatings for paint and wound care to 3D printing, micro-casting and micro-fluidics.
Professor James Friend, Director of the MicroNano Research Facility at RMIT, said the researchers had developed a portable system for precise, fast and unconventional micro- and nano-fabrication.
"By tuning the sound waves, we can create any pattern we want on the surface of a microchip," Professor Friend said.
"Manufacturing using thin film technology currently lacks precision - structures are physically spun around to disperse the liquid and coat components with thin film.
"We've found that thin film liquid either flows towards or away from high-frequency sound waves, depending on its thickness.
"We not only discovered this phenomenon but have also unravelled the complex physics behind the process, enabling us to precisely control and direct the application of thin film liquid at a micro and nano-scale."
The new process, which the researchers have called "acoustowetting", works on a chip made of lithium niobate - a piezoelectric material capable of converting electrical energy into mechanical pressure.
The surface of the chip is covered with microelectrodes and the chip is connected to a power source, with the power converted to high-frequency sound waves. Thin film liquid is added to the surface of the chip, and the sound waves are then used to control its flow.
The research shows that when the liquid is ultra-thin - at nano and sub-micro depths - it flows away from the high-frequency sound waves.
The flow reverses at slightly thicker dimensions, moving towards the sound waves. But at a millimetre or more in depth, the flow reverses again, moving away.
Full bibliographic information
Title: Double Flow Reversal in Thin Liquid Films Driven by MHz Order Surface Vibration
Authors: Amgad R. Rezk, Ofer Manor; Leslie Y. Yeo, and James R. Friend
Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society A
Date: Wednesday, 25 June 2014
About RMIT University
RMIT University is a global university of technology and design, focused on creating solutions that transform the future for the benefit of people and their environments.
One of Australia’s original educational institutions founded in 1887, RMIT is now the nation’s largest and most internationalised tertiary institution with more than 82,000 students.
The University enjoys an international reputation for excellence in professional and practical education, applied research, and engagement with the needs of industry and the cities in which it is located.
RMIT has three campuses in Melbourne, two campuses in Vietnam and an office in Barcelona, Spain. The University also offers programs through partners in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Spain and Germany, and enjoys research and industry partnerships on every continent.
RMIT is ranked in the top 15 among all Australian universities (2013 QS World University Rankings) and has a 5-Star QS ranking for excellence in higher education.
In 2013, RMIT was named International Education Provider of the Year in the inaugural Victorian International Education Awards.
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