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4-Dimensional printing for adaptive optoelectronic components

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - xPRINT (4-Dimensional printing for adaptive optoelectronic components)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

3D printing technologies are currently changing manufacturing, introducing novel design and fabrication rules for building complex and highly interconnected devices. These technologies rely on the fabrication of 3D objects in a layer-by-layer approach starting from a digital model. 3D printing technologies are rapidly evolving from prototyping tools to large-scale manufacturing technologies, also in photonics and optoelectronics. In these fields, main challenges are related to the specific requirements in terms of (a) optical properties of the used materials, either passive or active, (b) spatial resolution needed for achieving smooth surfaces and homogeneous 3D structures, and (c) uniformity of interfaces between diverse materials. Moreover, most of the optical components currently available by 3D printing are passive and static, i.e. they are designed to perform a specific task, and cannot adapt themselves to the varying conditions of their surrounding environment. xPRINT aims at introducing novel additive manufacturing approaches for printing 4-dimensional optical components, namely devices which have complex 3D architecture and optical properties that can change in time in response to external stimuli. xPRINT will achieve such objective through a synergistic approach, encompassing modelling and diagnostics of the 3D printing processes, as well as advanced process engineering, specifically targeting photo-active materials.
The work performed during the first 30 months has been focused on engineering additive manufacturing processes for transparent and photo-active materials. Relevant results have been achieved for the two scientific workpackages of xPRINT, including modeling of the processes related to 3D printing of polymers (Activity 1.1) development of methods for in-situ process diagnostics (Activity 1.2) 3D printing of transparent materials and waveguides (Activity 1.3) and spectroscopic investigation of light-responsive, printable materials (Activity 2.1). Such activities have led to various high-quality research and technological achievements, including:
- modelling of the photopolymerization processes, for effectively describing 3D printing processes. The cross-linked regions are modeled as clusters and the photopolymerization reaction as an aggregation process;
- development of experimental methods for in-situ and real-time monitoring of 3D printing;
- fabrication of light-responsive systems, with optical properties (refractive index) controllable by light modulation;
- investigation of waveguiding properties in active materials, and stacked active microstructures building photonic circuits.
The results so far achieved by xPRINT have made a significant contribution for advancing the state of the art, especially for: (i) understanding fundamental properties of photopolymerization processes by modelling through cluster-cluster aggregation, and by in-situ investigation of the process kinetics, (ii) introducing novel optical materials and devices with adaptive properties, and (iii) investigating fundamental properties of complex systems of so-achieved active waveguides. These achievements lay the foundations for the accomplishment of the ultimate project objectives. The expected results until the end of the project will include the demonstration of 4D optical materials and components for all-optical computation and data storage.