Manufacturing Bits: June 26

Gummy bear chips; LHC upgrade; plasma accelerator.


Gummy bear chips
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Forschungszentrum Jülich have developed a 3D inkjet printing technique to print electrodes on several soft substrates, including gummy bears.

The main application is to develop a new class of sensor-based implants for life sciences. For this application, electrodes or microelectrode arrays (MEAs) are developed and printed on soft substrates. These tiny arrays would be ingested by a human. Then, the MEAs would be used to monitor electrical signals in the brain and heart. This, in turn, could one day be used to monitor a patient’s health or treat disorders.

For years, the industry has developed MEAs for these apps. But most are based on silicon or polymer materials. These materials can, in turn, cause inflammation in the body. These types of MEAs can also fail.

Hoping to resolve the problem, TUM took a high-tech version of an inkjet printer. It prints an MEA, which can detect voltage changes and other responses. A protective layer is printed on the device to prevent the sensor from picking up stray signals.

Microelectrode arrays on gelatin: Researchers have successfully printed sensors on gummy candy. (Image: N. Adly / TUM)

Researchers printed the MEAs on various substrates. This includes polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) as well various forms of gelatin, such as a gummy bear. Gelatin-coated implants promise to reduce reactions in tissue. “In the future, similar soft structures could be used to monitor nerve or heart functions in the body, for example, or even serve as a pacemaker,” said Bernhard Wolfrum, professor of neuroelectronics at TUM.

LHC upgrade
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has begun work on a new and upgraded version of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The upgraded version is called the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), which will increase the capabilities of the sub-atomic particle collider.

CERN operates a particle physics laboratory that is situated at the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. The lab consists of the LHC, a giant, 27-kilometer particle accelerator. In 2012, researchers from CERN observed the Higgs boson, an elementary sub-atomic particle.

Today, the LHC is able to produce up to 1 billion proton-proton collisions per second, according to CERN. In comparison, the HL-LHC will increase this number by a factor between five and seven. This is referred to as “luminosity.”

The HL-LHC will require 130 new magnets, including 24 new superconducting systems. It is expected to move into operation by 2026. “The High-Luminosity LHC will extend the LHC’s reach beyond its initial mission, bringing new opportunities for discovery, measuring the properties of particles such as the Higgs boson with greater precision, and exploring the fundamental constituents of the universe ever more profoundly,” said CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti.

Today, Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) is readying what is considered the world’s most luminous or brightest particle accelerator.

Plasma accelerator
The Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has begun work on a new facility for the development of a plasma accelerator technology.

The project is an upgrade to the existing Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests (FACET), which operated from 2011 to 2016. The new system, dubbed FACET-II, will produce beams using plasma acceleration techniques.

The FACET-II facility is currently funded to operate with electrons. Over time, it will produce and accelerate positrons as well.

The DOE has approved the $26 million project. The new facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. FACET-II has issued its first call for proposals for experiments that will run when the facility goes online in 2020.

“As a strategically important national user facility, FACET-II will allow us to explore the feasibility and applications of plasma-driven accelerator technology,” said James Siegrist, associate director of the High Energy Physics (HEP) program of DOE’s Office of Science. “We’re looking forward to seeing the groundbreaking science in this area that FACET-II promises, with the potential for significant reduction of the size and cost of future accelerators, including free-electron lasers and medical accelerators.”

Researchers will use FACET-II to develop the plasma wakefield acceleration method, in which researchers send a bunch of very energetic particles through a hot ionized gas, or plasma, creating a plasma wake for a trailing bunch to “surf” on and gain energy. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

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