Optical-Grade Glass – Nanoscale 3D Printing

An innovative low-temperature technique for 3D printing optical-grade glass has been created by a research team, paving the way for microelectronic devices with high-resolution visible-light nanophotonics capabilities.

High-precision optics and microelectronics might allow new navigation, communications, remote sensing technologies, and other applications. The materials that make up those platforms would be harmed by the high-temperature sintering required by conventional techniques for printing optical glass.

This research opens the door for on-chip production of optical-grade glass. Printing fine, transparent glass nano- and microstructures directly on virtually any chip that can withstand 650 degrees Celsius will be feasible.

The researchers used a technique for 3D printing known as two-photon polymerization, also known as direct laser writing. The process allows for complex nanoscale structures, whereas most earlier plastic forms used printer-friendly polymer resins. Nanoparticle sintering has been necessary for 3D printing with optical materials like silica glass at temperatures above 1,100 degrees Celsius, which is too high for deposition on semiconductor chips but hot enough to connect materials without liquifying.

A liquid resin made of “polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane,” or POSS, molecules, which include small glass clusters made up of only a few atoms, was the researchers’ answer. For simple 3D printing, they mixed POSS with other organic compounds. The resultant crosslinked pre-glass polymeric nanostructure was heated in air to a temperature of 650 degrees Celsius to create a continuous glass nanostructure.

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