My research project
Solid foams with micrometric pores are used in different fields (filtering, 3D cell culture, etc.), but today, controlling their foam geometry at the pore level, their internal structure, and the monodispersity, along with their mechanical properties, is still a challenge. Existing attempts to create such foams suffer either from slow speed or size limitations (above 80 μm). In this work, by using a temperature-regulated microfluidic process, 3D solid foams with highly monodisperse open pores (PDI lower than 5%), with sizes ranging from 5 to 400 μm and stiffnesses spanning 2 orders of magnitude, are created for the first time. These features open the way for exciting applications, in cell culture, filtering, optics, etc. Here, the focus is set on photonics. Numerically, these foams are shown to open a 3D complete photonic bandgap, with a critical index of 2.80, thus compatible with the use of rutile TiO2. In the field of photonics, such structures represent the first physically realizable self-assembled FCC (face-centered cubic) structure that possesses this functionality.
The porosity and inhomogeneity of 3D printed polymer samples were examined using terahertz time-domain spectroscopy, and the effects of 3D printer settings were analysed. A set of PETG samples were 3D printed by systematically varying the printer parameters, including layer thickness, nozzle diameter, filament (line) thickness, extrusion, and printing pattern. Their effective refractive indices and loss coefficients were measured and compared with those of solid PETG. Porosity was calculated from the refractive index. A diffraction feature was observed in the loss spectrum of all 3D printed samples and was used as an indication of inhomogeneity. A “sweet spot” of printer settings was found, where porosity and inhomogeneity were minimised.