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Scientists 3D print a microscopic Star Trek spaceship – here’s why

Scientists 3D print a microscopic Star Trek spaceship – here’s why

A team of physicists at a university in the Netherlands acquired a 3D-printed microscopic version of the USS Voyager. Just in case you didn’t know, the USS Voyager is a starship from Star Trek. And, yes – this is real. This didn’t come from an episode of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. They’re living the life that Sheldon Cooper, Leonard Hofstadter, Raj Koothrappali, and Howard Wolowitz could only hope for.

USS Voyager | Photo from Star Trek

Scientists 3D print a microscopic Star Trek spaceship

Researchers at Leiden University sets to utilize the 15-micrometers long USS Voyager as a part of their project. This research aims to understand how its shape affect the motion and interaction of microswimmers. The microswimmers, on the other hand, refers to the small particles that has the ability to move through liquid on their own. Meanwhile, they interact with their environment through chemical reaction.

The study also includes how the platinum coating around the miniature USS Voyager would react to the hydrogen peroxide solution that they reside in and that propels them through the liquid. According to an interview with CNN, one of the study’s authors Samia Ouhajji pointed out how they would like to understand biological microswimmers through this project.

“By studying synthetic microswimmers, we would like to understand biological microswimmers. This understanding could aid in developing new drug delivery vehicles; for example, microrobots that swim autonomously and deliver drugs at the desired location in the human body.”

Photo from CNN

Why the USS Voyager?

Although most people wouldn’t understanbd the reasoning behind the usage of the Star Trek spaceship, it comes from one of the study’s co-authors, Jonas Hoecht. Ouhajji promised him that they would print any shape he liked. Since Hoecht was a huge fan of Star Trek, he chose the USS Voyager.

Aside from that, he reasoned out that it would show that the type of shapes they can use would be limitless. The physicists involved in this project has since printed other shapes. This also includes boats, trimers, and helices – noting that different shapes affect their swimming behaviors.

USS Voyager | Photo from Star Trek

Catalytically propelled 3D printed colloidal microswimmers

Aside from Ouhajji and Hoecht, the authors of the study also include: Rachel P. Doherty, Thijs Varkevisser, Margot Teunisse, Stefania Ketzetzi, and Daniela J. Kraft. Their abstract also reads:

“We establish the flexibility of 3D printing by two-photon polymerisation to produce particles smaller than 10 microns with a high-degree of shape complexity. Also, we further demonstrate that 3D printing allows control over the location of the active site through orienting the particles in different directions during printing.”

“We verify that particles behave colloidally by imaging their motion in the passive and active states and by investigating their mean square displacement. In addition, we find that particles exhibit shape-dependant behavior, thereby demonstrating the potential of our method to launch a wide-range of in-depth studies into shape-dependent active motion and behaviour.”

USS Voyager | Photo from Star Trek

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