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Materials Research 3D-Printing — Lightweight Materials Inspired by Nature

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Inspired by natural cellular structures, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Seas), the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and MIT have developed a new method to 3D print materials with independently tunable macro-and microscale porosity using a ceramic foam ink.

Close up image of one node of the triangular honeycomb. The structure, which consists of air surrounded by ceramic, can be designed with specific porosity.
Close up image of one node of the triangular honeycomb. The structure, which consists of air surrounded by ceramic, can be designed with specific porosity.
(Source: James Weaver/Wyss Institute)

Cambridge/USA — “By expanding the compositional space of printable materials, we can produce lightweight structures with exceptional stiffness,” said Jennifer Lewis, Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the paper. Lewis is also a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss. The ceramic foam ink used by the Lewis Lab contains alumina particles, water, and air.

“Foam inks are interesting because you can digitally pattern cellular microstructures within larger cellular macrostructures,” said Joseph Muth, a graduate student in the Lewis Lab and first author of the paper. “After the ink solidifies, the resulting structure consists of air surrounded by ceramic material on multiple length scales. As you incorporate porosity into the structure, you impart properties that it otherwise would not have.”