College of Science & Engineering
The McAlpine Research Group focuses on 3D printing functional materials and devices.
The ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological and functional materials could enable the creation of devices possessing personalized geometries and functionalities. Indeed, interfacing active devices with biology in 3D could impact a variety of fields, including biomedical devices, regenerative biomedicines, bioelectronics, smart prosthetics, and human-machine interfaces.
Biology, from the molecular scale of DNA and proteins, to the macroscopic scale of tissues and organs, is three-dimensional, often soft and stretchable, and temperature sensitive. This renders most biological platforms incompatible with the fabrication and materials processing methods that have been developed and optimized for functional electronics, which are typically planar, rigid, and brittle.
A number of strategies have been developed to overcome these dichotomies. This group's approach is to utilize extrusion-based multi-material 3D printing, which is an additive manufacturing technology that offers freeform, autonomous fabrication. This approach addresses the challenges presented above by: using 3D printing and imaging for personalized device architectures; employing "nano-inks" as an enabling route for introducing a diverse palette of functionalities; and combining 3D printing of biological and functional inks on a common platform to enable the interweaving of these two worlds, from biological to electronic.
3D printing is a multiscale platform, allowing for the incorporation of functional nanoscale inks, the printing of microscale features, and ultimately the creation of macroscale devices. This blending of 3D printing, functional materials, and "living" inks may enable next-generation 3D printed devices.