3D printing at the nanoscale produces powerful possibilities

ASU researcher developing new method to enhance precision of 3D printing at very small scales

May 2, 2022

Kenan Song is excited about the potential of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. Its ability to allow for inexpensive and rapid prototyping of custom designs without the limits of traditional manufacturing drives his interest in the field.

Song, an assistant professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is also interested in precise, consistent and efficient production using additive manufacturing. Some of his current research focuses on the exact replication of printed patterns at the nanoscale, with particles more than 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of a sheet of paper. ASU Assistant Professor Kenan Song and research collaborator Mounika Kakarla wearing white coats in a lab. ASU Assistant Professor Kenan Song (left) examines a 3D-printed sample of the Multiphase Direct Ink Writing technology with recent master’s degree graduate and research collaborator Mounika Kakarla. Song earned a 2022 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award for this method, which can enhance 3D printing precision of ordered patterns at very small scales with a wider range of nanomaterials. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

In nanomanufacturing, particularly when it is used in the semiconductor industry, nanoparticles in the form of powders are used to print ordered structures such as dots, lines, pillars and layers. The properties of the nanoparticles are unleashed based on how they are patterned, so it is critical to be able to print them exactly as designed.

“Precise nanomanufacturing that enables patterning on surfaces or interfaces is critical to transferring high-performance nanoparticle properties when scaled up in devices, such as the chips in iPhones,” Song says, noting that the nature of the irregular nanoparticle powders makes this difficult to achieve consistently.

Current additive manufacturing methods use external forces such as electricity, magnets and sound waves to accurately place nanoparticles at certain locations. However, these methods don’t work for all kinds of nanoparticles and have other limitations.

So Song is developing a new 3D printing mechanism called Multiphase Direct Ink Writing to enhance manufacturing precision at very small scales with a wider range of materials.

This work — a project titled “Additively Manufactured Nanomaterial Layers with Submicron Structures” — is supported by a 2022 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award. This award, which supports Song with $600,000 in funding over five years, is given to young faculty members who demonstrate the potential to be education and research leaders and advance the mission of their organizations.

“With unprecedented speeds and resolutions, our additive manufacturing method will provide a fundamental understanding of 3D printing principles involving both machine design and material science studies,” says Song, who is making significant contributions to manufacturing at the ASU Polytechnic campus as a faculty member in The Polytechnic School in addition to his role as a graduate faculty member in aerospace and mechanical engineering, and materials science and engineering, in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, two of the seven schools in the Fulton Schools.

To create this method, Song is leading a multidisciplinary research effort that includes polymer science, nanoparticle synthesis and interfacial engineering to explore interactions of materials at the atomic or molecular level.

The Multiphase Direct Ink Writing method has broad potential use in the rapid prototyping of sensors, actuators and soft robotics, as well as applications in supercapacitors, batteries and regenerative medicine.

Song and his research team will use the method to develop a class of nanoparticles called MXenes with new structures and physical and chemical properties to demonstrate new 3D-printed energy devices.

Another important aspect of CAREER award projects is their educational component. Song is highly involved in including students from underrepresented groups in his research, teaching an entrepreneurial mindset and providing opportunities for research exchange with universities in Israel, France and Qatar.

He believes his efforts in these areas caught the NSF’s attention as he works to increase diversity in the important, growing additive manufacturing industry.

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU student attends Pacific Sociological Association conference

May 2, 2022

Lynette Hrabik, a senior at Arizona State University studying political science and sociology, believes that students looking to enrich their college experience should pursue undergraduate research opportunities.

So far during her time with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she’s done just that. Portrait of ASU student Lynette Hrabik. Lynette Hrabik Download Full Image

With the assistance of a travel grant offered by the School of Politics and Global Studies, Hrabik traveled to Sacramento, California, to attend the Pacific Sociological Association’s annual conference.

The conference focused on collective memory. Hrabik attended sessions on mental health, the carceral system, globalization and education.

“As a research assistant for the Arizona Youth Identity Project (AZYIP), I also presented some of our preliminary survey and interview findings,” Hrabik said. “My presentation covered Native American young adults’ civic engagement in Arizona during the 2020 elections and COVID-19 pandemic.”

Attending the Pacific Sociological Association’s conference not only provided Hrabik the opportunity to share and receive feedback on her research, but also learn from others.

“Also, as a political science and sociology student, I loved seeing how experts from across the country are applying the concepts I’m learning in their research,” she said.

Hrabik shared some of her experiences from this conference with ASU News:

Question: What were some of your takeaways from this experience?

Answer: There were so many inspiring presentations. One of my takeaways is the value of research in understanding social issues and facilitating change. I was quite moved by one talk on mental health in Filipino communities since I'm Filipina, and this topic is personal for me. While many Filipinos struggle with mental health, seeking help is stigmatized. Mental health service utilization is low — for a variety of reasons. This is a problem since many don’t receive support until it's too late. The presenters discussed how they were interviewing both older and younger generations to heal intergenerational traumas and work towards increasing mental health service utilization. Personally, I think this is a powerful example of how valuable research can be.

Q: How do you think this trip will help you attain your career aspirations?

A: I’m interested in public interest law, becoming a policy analyst or working in public service in some capacity, so the knowledge I gained through this opportunity is indispensable. I also came back more confident in my research abilities and with greater resolve. Whatever path I take, I believe the experience will make me a better researcher and advocate.

Q: What advice would you give those who are interested in a similar experience?

A: When Dr. Angela Gonzales and Dr. Michelle Pasco originally suggested that I could present at a conference, I was hesitant. However, despite being an undergrad, I was surprised by how supportive other conference attendees were. My advice is to not sell yourself short! Pursue research opportunities, even if they seem intimidating, because you’ll learn and grow substantially.

Matt Oxford

Assistant Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, College of Global Futures