Dutch scientists have just boasted a real miniature work of art, which is also a test of new types of micro-floats, i.e. artificial units that faithfully imitate the movement of single cells.
Researchers from Leiden University have just presented their work, which is probably the smallest boat in the world. The model, which measures just 30 microns in length, was 3D printed as part of a project to create micro-floats with very complex shapes. To take pictures of it, you had to use a scanning electron microscope, i.e. one used to observe and characterize organic and inorganic materials on a nanometric to micrometric scale.
Thanks to this, we know that the boat is full of details and faithfully reproduces the actual vessels - with a cabin, chimney and even small windows. The whole project is all the more impressive as the boat is a third of a human hair thick! Its model is 3DBenchy, a computer 3D model designed specifically to test the accuracy and capabilities of 3D printers that have to deal with all these details. And since this particular concept uses an unconventional method of 3D printing, it was extremely important to ensure that it was possible to achieve this level of detail.
What kind of print are we talking about? The microloat was not printed using the conventional extrusion method that is used with plastic objects on a micro scale. Instead, scientists turned to a technique called two-photon polymerization, which in short, is about laser carving complex shapes and patterns into a material designed to respond to light. It is worth noting, however, that, as we mentioned earlier, it is not only a work of art, but above all a practical application, i.e. testing various shapes of micro-floaters, i.e. artificial units capable of faithfully imitating biological micro-floaters, i.e. single cells observed, for example, in bacteria or sperm. .
They usually take the shape of simple spheres, and scientists wanted to see if they could be much more complicated. Therefore, the 3DBenchy boat has been joined by spirals, screws, spiked spheres or groups of balls - one side of the objects is covered with platinum, which reacts with the surrounding medium, producing bubbles and using them to move. It should be noted, however, that although the tiny boat definitely meets these assumptions, at the same time it is not the most efficient of the shapes and the spirals and screws did much better.
Source: /Leiden University / Photo. Leiden University