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Graduate Research - Nanoparticles in Additive Manufacturing

For my graduate research, I work in the DREAMS Lab (Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems) in Virginia Tech's Mechanical Engineering Department. Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a unique method of fabrication that, in contrast to traditional manufacturing methods, builds objects layer by layer. By starting with a digital three dimensional (3D) design, objects can be “printed” using AM technology with no need for costly shop-type machinery or trained technicians. 

Below is an image of PolyJet Direct 3D printing technology. This technology is the focus of my work. The inkjet nozzles work just like a typical inkjet printer does, but instead of depositing ink, the nozzles deposit a liquid photopolymer that is then cured (hardened) with a UV light. 

PolyJet Direct 3D Printing

Importance of Work
The focus of my graduate work is to address the issue of security in Additive Manufacturing (AM). The ability of AM (when partnered with 3D scanning) to “clone” physical objects has raised concerns in the area of intellectual property (IP). To address this issue, the goal of my graduate work is to characterize and model a method to incorporate unique security features within AM builds. One type of security feature that is well suited for AM is a Physical Unclonable Function (PUF). PUFs take advantage of the randomness of particle arrangement to create a pattern that is virtually un-repeatable. By adding optically detectable nanoparticles into transparent AM media, these PUFs can be embedded into AM builds and serve as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

Tasks Completed
The following tasks have been completed toward my disseration:
- Characterization of the effects of Quantum Dots on surface tension and viscosity of VeroClear photopolymer
- Inkjetting of QD-doped photopolymer
- Visibility analysis

Skills Gained
For this project, I've learned to use the following characterization instruments and interpret the data from them:
- Tensiometer (Surface Tension)
- Rheometer (Viscosity)
- Photorheometer (Modulus vs. UV Exposure)
- MicroFab single nozzle inkjet station (inkjet droplet imaging)
- Fluorescent Microscope
- Refractometer (index of refraction)
- Surfometer (surface roughness)

Lesson's Learned
Working toward completing a dissertation for a PhD has become a truly rewarding experience for me. I have developed proficiency in collected and analyzing data, planning future experiments, and shaping a research endeavor in general. With the "up's and down's" of this research project I have learned how to better plan for the scope of projects, taking into account those "bumps in the road." Most importantly, I have learned to never give up, because research, in many ways, requires faith - faith in yourself, your team, and your purpose.

The major focus of my work is to characterize the effects of Quantum Dots on  photopolymerization. This will be in the form of a mathematical model based on the physics and chemistry behind Quantum Dot light scattering and photopolymerization. Applications that would benefit from this understanding are those that use Quantum Dots in photopolymers, such as micro dsiplays, flexible electronics, and photovoltaics.

Subpages (1): The DreamVendor
Amy Elliott,
Apr 8, 2013, 6:27 AM