A Cell-Sized Boat Has Been 3D Printed
Physicists at Leiden University have developed a cell-sized boat that showcases the abilities of macroscopic 3D printers, and also has a more practical application.
The boat is the smallest in the world, and it is a 30-micrometre copy of a tugboat called Benchy. In the context of visible things, that makes the ship one third the thickness of human hair. It was designed to show the capabilities of macroscopic printing, and the process is incredibly delicate. Nonetheless, this did not stop the team at Leiden University from adding complexity and giving the boat a cockpit just to add to the enjoyment of the creation.
One of the researchers in the project, Daniela Kraft, explained to Gizmodo how they created this incredibly tiny boat:
A laser is focused inside a droplet that locally hardens in the focal spot of the laser. By moving the laser through the droplet in a controlled way, we can write the swimmer shape that we want, Because the print is taking place inside the droplet, and we are printing layer by layer, we can maintain the open space [inside the tugboat cockpit].
On top of the impressive work done to create the vessel, by tracking motion the boat can also monitor the movement of different types of particles. Looking forward, this project could have a large impact on how scientists analyse and replicate microswimmers.
The optimisation of microswimming techniques could lead to better drug delivery as well as a greater understanding of the topic as a whole. With this in mind, this very tiny tugboat could have a significant impact in the future.
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