Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and the Heidelberg University announced the creation of a new technology designed to assemble matter in 3D. They based their research on using multiple acoustic holograms to generate pressure fields with which they can print solid particles, gel beads, and biological cells. The research opens possibilities for novel 3D cell culture techniques, specifically in biomedical engineering.
Although conventional 3D printing is often a slow process, the researchers demonstrated forming a 3D object from smaller building blocks in just one step using shaped ultrasound.
Sound waves exert forces on matter. Using high-frequency ultrasound, wavelengths can be pushed below a millimeter into the microscopic realm, allowing them to manipulate tiny building blocks like biological cells.
The team captures particles and cells freely floating in water and assembles them into 3-D shapes. The method works with materials such as glass or hydrogel beads and biological cells. The discovery is promising for forming cell cultures and tissues in 3D. Ultrasound is gentle for using biological cells; it can travel deep into tissue, enabling the manipulation and push of cells without harm.