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Title: Micro/nanofabrication of brittle hydrogels using 3D printed soft ultrafine fiber molds for damage-free demolding
Authors: Lv, S
Nie, J
Gao, Q
Xie, C
Zhou, L
Qiu, J
Fu, J
Zhao X 
He, Yong
Issue Date: Apr-2020
Source: Biofabrication, Apr. 2020, v. 12, no. 2, 025015
Abstract: Hydrogels are very popular in biomedical areas for their extraordinary biocompatibility. However, most bio-hydrogels are too brittle to perform micro/nanofabrication. An effective method is cast molding; yet during this process, many defects occur as the excessive demolding stress damages the brittle hydrogels. Here, we propose a brand-new damage-free demolding method and a soft ultrafine fiber mold (SUFM) to replace the traditional mold. Both mechanical and finite element analysis (FEA) reveal that SUFMs have obvious advantages especially when the contact area between hydrogel and mold gets larger. By means of a high-resolution 3D printing called electrohydrodynamic (EHD) printing, SUFMs with various topological structures can be achieved with the fiber diameter ranging from 500 nm to 100 μm, at a low cost. Microfluidics and cell patterns are implemented as the demonstration for potential applications. Owing to the tiny scale of microstructures and the hydrophilicity of hydrogels, significant capillary effect occurs which can be utilized to deliver liquid and cells autonomously and to seed cells into those ultrafine channels evenly. The results open up a new avenue for a wider use of hydrogels in biomedical devices, tissue engineering, hydrogel-based microfluidics and wearable electronics; the proposed fabrication method also has the potential to become a universal technique for micro/nanofabrication of brittle materials.
Keywords: Hydrogel micro/nanofabrication
Ultrafine fiber mold
Damage-free demolding
Micro/nano 3D printing
Electrohydrodynamic printing
Hydrogel bio-microfluidic chip
Cell patterns
Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing
Journal: Biofabrication 
ISSN: 1758-5082
EISSN: 1758-5090
DOI: 10.1088/1758-5090/ab57d8
Rights: © 2020 IOP Publishing Ltd.
This is the Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in Biofabrication. IOP Publishing Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions in this version of the manuscript or any version derived from it. The Version of Record is available online at
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