“By moving the laser through the drop in a controlled way, we can write the shape of the swimmer we want,” said researcher Daniela Kraft. “As printing is taking place inside the drop, and we are printing layer by layer, we can keep the space open [inside the tugboat cockpit]. “
The team created the boat because it was “fun”, but they also developed more specific forms for research, including a spiral less than 5 microns in diameter. By tracking the movement, they were able to measure the speed and path of different types of particles.
The 3D printing technique opens the door to the creation of very specific shapes, in order to emulate biological micro-swimmers or to optimize their movement through fluids. “Ultimately, it will allow greater control and design of the behavior of synthetic micro-swimmers, useful for applications in therapeutic diagnostics and medication administration”, states the research article.