2021 journal article
Metallophobic Coatings to Enable Shape Reconfigurable Liquid Metal Inside 3D Printed Plastics
ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 13(11), 12709–12718.
Liquid metals adhere to most surfaces despite their high surface tension due to the presence of a native gallium oxide layer. The ability to change the shape of functional fluids within a three-dimensional (3D) printed part with respect to time is a type of four-dimensional printing, yet surface adhesion limits the ability to pump liquid metals in and out of cavities and channels without leaving residue. Rough surfaces prevent adhesion, but most methods to roughen surfaces are difficult or impossible to apply on the interior of parts. Here, we show that silica particles suspended in an appropriate solvent can be injected inside cavities to coat the walls. This technique creates a transparent, nanoscopically rough (10-100 nm scale) coating that prevents adhesion of liquid metals on various 3D printed plastics and commercial polymers. Liquid metals roll and even bounce off treated surfaces (the latter occurs even when dropped from heights as high as 70 cm). Moreover, the coating can be removed locally by laser ablation to create selective wetting regions for metal patterning on the exterior of plastics. To demonstrate the utility of the coating, liquid metals were dynamically actuated inside a 3D printed channel or chamber without pinning the oxide, thereby demonstrating electrical circuits that can be reconfigured repeatably.