One of the key hurdles for this research program is finding a technique that can place droplets of fluids (solvents, polymers, suspensions) in precise amounts and in precise locations on the micron-scale with repeated accuracy on any desired substrate. A fluid microplotting machine absolutely resolves this difficult problem of precise fluid placement and volumes. It uses piezoelectric generated vibrations (sound vibrations) of a micropipette tip to dispense fluid in precise amounts. The micropipette tip is mounted to three automated robotic lateral positioners capable of accurately placing the fluid droplets with micron range (~1-5 microns) accuracy and reproducibility. Because of the versatility of the device, it operates reliably over a large range of fluid viscosities, has a user-configurable interface, and has been used to successfully produce samples and devices ranging from working organic LEDs to DNA and protein arrays. It has even been used on photolithographically patterned 4-inch silicon wafers to precisely deposit lines of polymer on silicon microchips. The figure below shows the microplotter depositing small water droplets on a surface of a size comparable to the size needed to create micro-reaction areas.
Our research group at Montana State University in Bozeman uses this fluid microplotter for plotting, on the micron scale using a wide variety of liquids with a wide range of fluid viscosities, over a reasonable travel area of 10x10x5 centimeters. Our goal is to demonstrate that this breakthrough in fluid-plotting technology also represents a new prototyping method for examining magnetic nanoparticle synthesis and hierarchical structure formation. In addition, since the fluid microplotter has demonstrated past success in producing other polymer-based devices, bio-patterning, and compatability with fragile structures, we are confident that progress can be made towards dramatic and transformational advancements in directed applications.