A technique developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is facilitating the printing of glass for the very first time. Thanks to its transparency and resistance to heat and acid, glass could open the door to many new applications, including in optics, data transmission, and biotechnology.

The procedure, which was developed by an interdisciplinary team led by mechanical engineer Dr. Bastian E. Rapp, blends nano-particles of extremely pure quartz glass with a small amount of liquid plastic and hardens the substance at specific points using stereolithography.

The material left over is washed out or removed through the application of heat. »In the final step, the glass is sintered to the point that the glass particles melt together,« Rapp explains. Rapp adds that glass formed using 3D techniques can be incorporated into data technology, as well.

»Two technological generations from now, computing will be based on light, which requires complex processor structures,« he reveals. Meanwhile, minuscule analytical systems can be assembled from tiny glass tubes for use in biological and medical technology. Other glass microstructures created using this procedure could see use in a wide variety of optical applications, from glasses for special requirements to the lenses of laptop cameras.

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