According to the latest reports, Rutgers engineers have developed, or rather invented a ‘4D printing’ technique, which involves the use of a smart gel. By using this gel, further development of living structures in human organs and tissues is certainly possible, along with innovations in soft robots and focused drug delivery.
Smart Gel to Revolutionize 4D Printing
The 4D printing method used in the above mentioned context involves printing a 3D object by using a hydrogel, which is also called a water-containing gel. This substance changes shape over time when the surrounding temperatures experience a shift. This statement was made by Howon Lee, who is a senior author on this study, and also is an assistant professor at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers University situated in New Brunswick.
The study was published online in the Scientific Reports, which depicts fast and high-resolution based 3D printing techniques that use hydrogels in order to add the 4th dimension of time, wherein the printed product can change shape with respect to this additional dimension. Hydrogels are commonly used in various products such as diapers, contact lenses, and even in Jell-O based items. These gels are also a part of some of the most crucial functions in the human body. The 4D printing technology that makes use of hydro-gels is substantially scalable, thus enabling manufacturing of different sized products.
The smart gel is also said to impart sturdiness and durability to organs such as lungs, and hence maintain their structural rigidity. In the domain of soft-robotics, these gels could also help create a new area of applications. This involves quality actuators and flexible sensors, devices used for biomedical processes, supporting structures for cell growth, and several other devices associated with the science-based fields. As per Lee, the whole potential of the smart gels has still not come out in the open, and once it does, the entire industry of flexible, shape monitoring materials will change.