3D manufacturing method enables precise nanoscale 3D printing for first time

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a new 3D printing method that for the first time allows materials to be precisely and quickly created between the nanoscale and macroscale. As a result, it can produce materials with a strong structural resemblance to wood or bone.

The research involved the 3D printing of foglike microdroplets that contain nanoparticles of silver. The droplets are deposited at specific locations and as the liquid in the droplet evaporates, the nanoparticles remain to create incredibly delicate looking structures. Despite their apparent delicacy however, the structures are porous, have an extremely large surface area and are very strong.

“This is a groundbreaking advance in the 3D architecturing of materials at nano- to macroscales with applications in batteries, lightweight ultrastrong materials, catalytic converters, supercapacitors and biological scaffolds,” said Rahul Panat, associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who led the research.

“This technique can fill a lot of critical gaps for the realization of these technologies.”

Silver was used for the initial research due to its easy workability. However, Panat says that any other material that can crushed into nanoparticles, a description that applies to nearly all materials, could be used in place of silver.

The manufacturing method itself bears resemblance to a natural, although rare, process found over the western African deserts. In these deserts, crystalline flower-like structures known as “desert roses” form when tiny fog droplets containing sulphur evaporate over the heat of the desert earth.

Mirroring this phenomenon, the researchers’ method produced a variety of structures, including microscaffolds that contain solid truss members like a bridge, electronic connections that resemble accordion bellows, doughnut-shaped pillars or spirals. Thanks to the basis in 3D printing, they were able to do so highly efficiently, allowing for the possibility of scaling up to large-scale manufacturing.

Image courtesy of Washington State University

Going forward, the research team believes that their method can be used in a number of industrial applications. Due to the minimal waste produced and the speed of manufacture, the development of such nanoscale and porous metal structures is applicable to, for example, the development finely detailed, porous anodes and cathodes for batteries, rather than the solid structures that are now used.

If successful on this front, the researcher’s work would transform the way in which the industry operates. The shift from solid structure to porous anodes could drastically increase battery speed and capacity and, furthermore, allow the energy industry to make use of new and higher energy materials.

Panat was assisted in the project by graduate students Mohammad Sadeq Saleh and Chunshan Hu. The research is in keeping with WSU’s Grand Challenges initiative stimulating research to address some of society’s most complex issues. The team’s work is reported on in the Science Advances journal and they have filed for a patent on the method.

DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”