Micro/nanofabrication of brittle hydrogels using 3D printed soft ultrafine fiber molds for damage-free demolding

Shang Lv, Jing Nie, Qing Gao, Chaoqi Xie, Luyu Zhou, Jingjiang Qiu, Jianzhong Fu, Xin Zhao, Yong He

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number025015
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • cell patterns
  • damage-free demolding
  • electrohydrodynamic printing
  • hydrogel bio-microfluidic chip
  • hydrogel micro/nanofabrication
  • micro/nano 3D printing
  • ultrafine fiber mold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering

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