Prosthetic limbs may not be the only human parts manufactured by 3D printers. With the help of a $500,000 grant, a Binghamton University professor plans to figure out how to create organs.
Paul Chiarot, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at BU, was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award. The award entitles Chiarot to a five-year, $500,000 grant to advance the research of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.
The award is given to early career researchers who plan to use the grant money both for research and to educate their local area on their area of expertise. Chiarot said that the application was extensive; applicants had to describe their research and education plan in detail and must follow that plan in their using of the grant.
“The proposals take many months to prepare — and are often built on ideas that have been refined over years,” Chiarot said. “As part of my proposal, I will be collaborating with other scientists, engineers and experts to achieve our research, education and outreach goals.”
Chiarot’s goal is to redefine 3D printing by making it more feasible to print highly detailed objects and thin, lengthened items. His research will use microscopic nanoparticles as basic material building blocks to assemble whole complex structures, which can lead to more precise products. His plan includes working with students from BU and the University of Toronto, where he received his doctorate.
The award, which will be given in June, will allow Chiarot to use nanoparticles made of different materials such as metals, alloys and oxides, as well as morphologies such as spheres, rods and wires. He said that these new structures and the advanced printing created with it will have a great impact on society, as it can be used to manufacture organs and parts with mechanical, thermal and electric properties.
“The next generation of high-performance devices for use in energy production, healthcare and security will require a fast and reliable manufacturing methodology that provides fine feature control at the level of an individual printed layer,” Chiarot said.
This is significant, he said, because it is not currently feasible to print highly detailed complex products on a large scale. He will use nanoparticles of different materials to produce every small part of a complex design such as a kidney or a part for a new energy source.
Chiarot said he will be working with colleague Darlee Gerrard from University of Toronto. The two plan to have students from both universities work together in the research and general engineering studies. Chiarot said that both graduate and undergraduate students, who will be funded by the grant, are an essential part of his research program and this will also give them the chance to pursue their own research.
A particular emphasis of this program is to engage students that are often underrepresented in engineering and science,” Chiarot said. “Our students will be spending summers in Toronto over the next couple of years and students from Toronto will be coming to Binghamton.“
Chiarot said he believes that his research will have further results on flexible electronics, which is technology that allows the assembling of electronic circuits by placing electronic devices on flexible plastic substrates.
In particular, one area where I see this work having a major impact is in flexible electronics,” Chiarot said. “This is an area where our university has made major contributions and the Watson School has recently had great success in attracting support for our research.”