Zhang named among “rising stars” in materials chemistry research for energy and sustainability

Author: Nina Welding

Yanliang Zhang

The explosive growth of additive manufacturing, traditionally equated with 3-D printing, has created infinite possibilities for rapid prototyping and large-scale manufacturing of products that are difficult to make using conventional approaches. “Everything from intricate structural parts to devices such as energy harvesters, sensors, and wearables is conceivable and within reach,” said Yanliang Zhang, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. Zhang’s work on additive manufacturing for functional materials and devices was featured in a recent themed issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry A titled Emerging Investigators 2019.

The researchers highlighted in the journal are already making an impact in materials for energy and sustainability. Colloidal Nanoparticle Inks for Printing Functional Devices: Emerging Trends and Future Prospects, written by Zhang and Minxiang Zeng, postdoctoral research associate in aerospace and mechanical engineering, presents their take on new trends and prospects for additive manufacturing based on nanoparticle inks. It discusses four interconnected areas that need to be addressed to transform nanomaterials into next-generation technologies in a scalable and economic fashion: nanoparticle synthesis, ink formulation, printing methods and device applications.

While colloidal nanoparticles have been widely studied and proven to offer unique properties, making functional devices from these nanoparticles can be as challenging as building a sculpture from a pile of dust,” said Zhang. Nanoparticle synthesis is the first step in the process. The composition, structure and surface chemistry of the nanoparticles need to be tailored to produced desired properties.

How nanoparticle inks are formulated also plays an important role in the additive manufacturing process. Ink formulation affects the stability, printability, drying and assembly of printed structures. The nanoparticles must be in a stable suspension in a carefully selected ink carrier with the right fluid flow properties to create a viable “ink.”

Printing Flow Chart2Additive manufacturing offers a promising approach to the rapid transformation of nanoscale building blocks into functioning macroscale devices.

Device printing can be accomplished using 2-D, 3-D or 4-D printing, and each printing method offers distinct benefits. Different printing methods can also result in different device architectures, expanding the scope of possibilities to allow the development of smart devices that are multifunctional, adaptive and programmable.

Zhang, who directs the Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Lab, focuses on additive and nano manufacturing of multifunctional and multiscale devices, thermoelectric energy conversion, advanced sensors and flexible electronics. His most recent projects target the development of flexible thermoelectric energy harvesters to convert waste heat into electricity and the development of advanced sensors and wearable devices.

A faculty member since 2017, Zhang’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation CAREER program, U.S. Department of Energy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He is a participating faculty member in the Center for Nano Science and TechnologyCenter for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame and Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics Initiative.

Originally published by Nina Welding at conductorshare.nd.edu on November 11, 2019.