Mar 29, 2016 | By Alec

A good glass of whisky (or ‘whiskey’, if you prefer an Irish brand) seems to have little to do with 3D printing, expect perhaps as a companion for those late night 3D printing projects. But a new paper by a team of Princeton University researchers argues that whisky can definitely inspire a wide range of 3D printing options, and more than just alcohol-fueled designs. Whisky, their study found, has remarkable evaporation qualities that could lead to new 3D printing inks and even coating materials.

To understand this unusual concept, it would be best to start at coffee. We’ve all defaced a magazine or newspaper with a coffee ring at some point or another. Those rings are formed because of the way coffee quickly evaporates at the ring’s edges, leading to a change in surface tension that pulls more liquids to those edges. Most whiskies, however, do not leave any ‘coffee rings’. Arizona-based photographer Ernie Button discovered that when he began photographing whisky residue in clear glasses, and asked a physicist friend why not all whiskies left interesting patterns.

That friend set up a research team at Princeton, who investigated the drying properties of whisky. This resulted in their paper that has just been published in Physical Review Letters, entitled “Controlled Uniform Coating from the Interplay of Marangoni Flows and Surface-Adsorbed Macromolecules”. It was authored by Hyoungsoo Kim, François Boulogne, Eujin Um, Ian Jacobi, Ernie Button, and Howard A. Stone, who revealed their results and expectations for whisky-based innovative fluids.

Essentially, they discovered two important drying features in those whiskies that did not leave coffee rings. Those whiskies had fat-like molecules that lower surface tension, stopping the liquid-pulling properties found in coffee. This essentially keeps the whiskey in the middle of the circle, instead of drawing it towards the edges. Secondly, they discovered plant-derived polymers that caused a sticking effect, that also kept the evaporating liquid in its place.

These are very interesting properties for fluids to have, because fluid patterning manipulation is crucial for various physicochemical applications. Recreating these whisky properties in other liquids, essentially gives researchers more control over their behavior and distribution. This would be very attractive for industrial liquids used for coating objects, and for 3D printing inks to ensure predictable drying behavior. To test this, the researchers already created whisky-like liquids that dried just as whisky did. Once removing these lipid molecules or plant-derived polymers, coffee rings were suddenly formed. The next step would be to take these whisky-based principles to industrial fluids that could add a whole new dimension to ink-based 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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