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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V04382X/1
Title: Electro-Collapse Jetting: Towards the Next Generation of Printing Technologies
Principal Investigator: Ismail, Dr ASM
Other Investigators:
Castrejon Pita, Dr JR
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Electrosciences Ltd Johnson Matthey Keratify Ltd
Trijet Limited
Department: School of Engineering & Materials Scienc
Organisation: Queen Mary University of London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2022 Ends: 31 March 2024 Value (£): 296,834
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complex fluids & soft solids Fluid Dynamics
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Jun 2021 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 8 and 9 June 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The generation of small sizes of liquids in forms of jets or droplets has a significant impact on our daily life in many levels. When an electric field is applied to a liquid meniscus formed out of a nozzle, electric charges are accumulated on the liquid surface producing stress. This electrically-driven stress deforms the meniscus into a cone shape known as Taylor cone and due to the singularity at the apex, a fine jet, much smaller than the nozzle in size is produced (electrojetting). This jet then breaks up into droplets due to Rayleigh instability. Understanding the physical mechanisms of this phenomenon has been the focus of scientists and engineers due to its use in a variety of technical applications, such as electrospray mass spectrometry and electro-hydrodynamic printing. The collapse of cavities on free liquid surfaces is another interesting phenomenon, in which effects such as momentum focusing can lead to the production of diminutive droplets and aerosols. This phenomenon has been exploited in applications such as wastewater treatment, drug delivery in microfluidics, crop spraying and inkjet printing. While both phenomena described above produce small droplets, each one of these has limitations that prevent it from producing submicron droplets of complex fluids with high viscosity and density.

Our proposal then aims to comprehensively study, for the first time, the behavior of both cavity collapse jetting and electrojetting to provide deep insights into the dynamics of the micro-droplets emerged when both phenomena are combined. This would then allow us to develop a novel printing technique based on the knowledge acquired throughout our study. We will also develop a predictive theoretical model for the droplet size and its speed based on the operation conditions and the physical properties of the liquids. The ultimate goal of the project is to use the proposed printing method to fabricate high performance piezoelectric devices as evidence of the applicability and the effectiveness of the technique.

The current available droplets generation techniques can produce droplets comparable to the nozzle size. Small and thin nozzles are more prone to clogging and breaking and more difficult to manufacture. This has hindered the implementation of these technologies in a variety of applications, in which the high-resolution printing of highly particle-loaded inks (>5000 cP) is required. This project aims to solve this problem by proposing a novel technique that capable of printing highly viscous functional materials with small sizes (< 1 micron), surpassing the range of sizes and materials offered by the current printing systems in the market. A preliminary data shows that the new technique can produce jets that are up to 100 times smaller than the nozzle in size (no need for small nozzles) and printing frequency that is one order of magnitude higher than the traditional natural electrojetting pulsation technique (fast printing). The proposed system offers also a solution to the problem of electrojetting on non-conductive surfaces. Depositing subsequent charged drops with the same polarity on nonconductive surfaces is problematic because this creates a repulsion force between the droplets leading to splashing and hence poor printing. This is because the nonconductive surface does not permit the charges within the drops to dissipate. However, the flexibility of the proposed system could allow us to neutralize the charges of the subsequent droplets, which will solve the problem and ensure high-resolution printing even on non-conductive surfaces. This will push forward the implementation on applications such as high-resolution printed electronics, manufacturing microlenses by depositing liquid crystals micro/nano droplets and many other applications that depends on printing complex fluids and active materials with high resolution such as additive manufacturing of tissues and organs.

Key Findings
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