New technology: Miniaturization in Movies Is No Longer a Dream
New Technology for Shrunking Objects
From Ant-Man to Alice in Wonderland, these films all express the human longing for the microcosm. Human beings always have a dream, on the one hand, they want to be big and strong, on the other hand, they want to be able to shrink at any time, so that they can avoid many eyes to explore and do whatever they want.
In the Marvel universe, Ant-man is an ant-sized superhero who, with a "body suit," is able to take on a more microscopic world. Now, a similar sci-fi fantasy is being turned into reality by MIT. But MIT's new research isn't based on a magic fur coat. It's more scientific: build a relatively large one, then scale it down to nanoscale accuracy, and then 3D print it out into the world.
The Implosion Fabrication
According to the published research, MIT scientists call this technology Implosion Fabrication. It is currently possible to reduce the original volume by one thousandth.
With no limits on materials and shapes, humans can finally create 3D objects with nanoscale precision. What's more, the method can be applied to a variety of materials, such as metals, quantum dots and DNA.
"Almost any material can be made into nanoscale 3D shapes in this way," said Edward Boyden, professor of neurotechnology and associate professor of bioengineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Using this new technology, humans can use lasers to shape polymer scaffolds of any shape and structure. When other useful materials are attached to the scaffold and then shrunk, the resulting structure is only a thousandth of its original volume.
Its application prospect is also very imaginative. MIT scientists say the tiny structure could have applications in fields such as optics, medicine and robotics. What's more exciting is that the technology USES equipment that already exists in many biological and material laboratories. So many scientists can try.
As you can imagine, if we could build a robot the size of a brain worm, with software capabilities like AI, the world of the brain and many brain diseases could be pushed a big step forward. Perhaps we humans will be able to see the quantum world clearly while exploring the stars and oceans before we have to wait until the next century.
It's also worth noting that the study included brain science and cancer scientists.
The Principles of Implosion Fabrication
So what's behind this technology?
Here's MIT's explanation:
Supposedly, the most direct way to get a small object is to build it. But the technology currently used to create nanostructures faces many limitations. Etching patterns on surfaces with light can produce 2D nanostructures, but not 3D structures. Layers can be added to create 3D nanostructures, but the process is too slow and challenging. Moreover, while existing methods can directly 3D print nanoscale objects, they are limited to specialized materials such as polymers and plastics, and thus lack many of the functional properties required for specific applications.
To overcome these limitations, Boyden and his students decided to use high-resolution imaging of brain tissue developed in his lab a few years ago. The technique, called an amplification microscope, involves inserting tissue into a hydrogel and dilating it, like a magnifying glass, so that high-resolution images can be taken using conventional microscopes. The researchers found they could make large objects, embed them in expansive hydrogels, and then shrink them down to nanoscale, a process known as implosion manufacturing. Similar to what they did in the field of amplification microscopy, the researchers used a highly absorbent material -- polyacrylates -- as a scaffold for the Nano-processing process. The scaffold is immersed in a solution containing luciferin molecules, which are then activated by a laser and attached to the scaffold. Two-photon microscopes can pinpoint points deep in the structure, and the researchers used the device to attach luciferin molecules to specific spots in the gel. The hidden images can then be made into real images by adding another material, silver. In this way, implosion fabrication can create a variety of structures, including graded forms, connectionless structures, and multi-material patterns. Once the molecules are attached in the right place, the researchers can contract the entire structure by adding acids. The acid blocks the negative charges in the polyacrylate gel, preventing them from repelling each other, causing the gel to contract and the structure to form as a whole.
Researchers say the technology could also make smaller, better lenses for mobile phone cameras, microscopes or endoscopes. They also think the method could be used to build nanoscale electronic devices or robots in the future. With this technology, humans have taken another big step in the world of micro science, even if they are still a long way from the fantasy of getting big and small.