Feb 2, 2017 | By Tess

A team of researchers from Tokyo University has developed a software program capable of converting “the distribution of physical quantities within space” into 3D printable data. The computer program and the 3D printed models it is capable of generating could help scientists better visualize, and thus understand, the relationships between molecular functions and the density distributions of electrons in an atom.

Led by technical specialist Jun Yamazaki from the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Solid State Physics, the research team recently demonstrated its research by feeding its generated data visualizations into an inkjet 3D printer. The result, which is pictured above, shows a transparent resin model with different colored dots and lines representing electron density distribution of carbon atoms in a fullerene molecule.

Up until now, visualizing how electrons are spread throughout an atom has remained pretty rudimentary and has relied mainly on molecular models made up of three dimensional ball-and-stick arrangements. With the new software, however, electron density distribution (also known as an electron cloud) can be transformed into complex “dot-like” data points that can be 3D printed using inkjet 3D printing technology. The end product is concisely described by the researchers as a “visual representation of an electron cloud in transparent resin.”

“With the ball-and-stick-type molecular model, we faced the problem of not being able to express electron densities calculated on a supercomputer; but we resolved this with our current technology,” said Yamazaki. “It is fun thinking of ways to visually portray invisible physical quantities in transparent resin.”

The 3D printed molecular model can help scientists to visualize more clearly and in more detail the distribution of electron density in a given molecule. According to the researchers, the new technique could lead to the development of new molecular functions involving electrons. In addition to being able to generate 3D printable models of electron clouds, the software could be used to create visual representations of other phenomena, such as clouds, architectural structures, airflow around cars, galaxies, and more. This versatility in representation means the software has many potential applications across a number of different fields.

Shinji Nagashiro, from science and sensor networking company X-Ability Co., Ltd., which is a collaborator on the research project, said: “I was very impressed when we produced a beautifully crafted electron cloud with the program we created. I hope this software will contribute to the development of new sciences by elevating the visualization of computer simulation results with the electron density distribution from conventional two-dimensional images to three-dimensional representations using 3D printers.”

The research was recently published in Proceedings of the 30th symposium of Molecular Simulation Society of Japan under the title “Development of STL files generation codes for molecular modeling incorporated with electron clouds using 3D-printer.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Mary Dery wrote at 2/3/2017 3:40:58 PM:

This is pretty amazing. What a great teaching tool!

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