In an advance in microfabrication technology, scientists report development of a new method for rapidly engineering complex micro-scale patterns and three-dimensional microstructures from biocompatible protein.
Jason B. Shear and Bryan Kaehr describe using the laser technique to fabricate detailed shapes — such as the silhouette of a housefly and the State of Texas — by condensing (or crosslinking) proteins in solution into a solid matrix. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
The researchers also used the process to fabricate minute 3-D structures, including 1- and 2-story microcontainers that were used to trap, incubate and grow as few as a single living bacterium into colonies. Such traps could have a variety of uses, including studying the formation of biofilms, which are the source of human health concerns.
The technique, mask-directed multiphoton lithography, is modeled after the photolithography processes widely used to transfer electronic circuits onto a semiconductor wafer by projecting light through a pattern or "mask."
However, the new method uses a special laser to scan objects or patterns printed on transparency film with an ordinary desktop printer. The silhouette ultimately is refocused into the protein solution using the objective lens of a microscope.
Because protein molecules must be extremely close to the laser focus to undergo crosslinking into solid material, this method allows structures to be created with complex 3-D shapes. The process takes only minutes, researchers report.
Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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