Three researchers at Polytechnique Montréal have published a paper that was featured as the cover story for the Wiley publication Small, which has an impact factor that puts it among the world’s leading publications covering topics in nano-scale and micro-scale chemistry, physics, materials science, engineering, medicine and biology.

Solvent-cast fabication with a thermoplastic polymer solution ink permits intricate shapes like this to be produced at the micro scale. Photo credit: Shuang-Zhuang Guo

“Making the cover is a big deal,” says chemical engineering professor Marie-Claude Heuzey, who co-authored the article with mechanical engineering professor Daniel Therriault and doctoral student Shuang-Zhuang Guo. The trio has been collaborating as part of Guo’s thesis work, which focuses on solvent-cast printing. This 3D microfabrication method robotically deposits a polymer solution on a moving stage, making it possible to construct a wide range of structures at the nanometre scale, including filaments, scaffolds and even intricate spirals.

Guo’s research became the foundation for the article, which demonstrates the application of this microextrusion technique to polylactide in combination with a solvent that rapidly evaporates. The filaments are deposited into the desired shape, which is retained upon solvent drying.
Heuzey and Therriault are members of the Polytechnique’s Centre for Applied Research on Polymers and Composites, where the potential of this promising approach is still being explored. “First we wanted to figure out what is happening just with the polymer matrix as a simpler model system,” says Heuzey, who spoke to ACCN from her laboratory at Polytechnique Montréal. “Now we’re looking at the complications when you add nanoparticles.”