Surface-Architected Smart Cellular Fluidics for Directional Liquid Transport

Cheng Zhu | 23-FS-037

Project Overview

Liquid transport is a common natural phenomenon, existing on the skin or surface of the natural features driven by varied unique structures and material properties (e.g., wettability). Although several bioinspired materials have been created to promote directed liquid flow, their static structures restrict their practical applications. Smart or active materials with controllable liquid steering capability are therefore highly demanded. Our previous studies showed that open porous cellular fluidics can guide liquid flow through unit cells design, size, and relative density. Here, we use additive manufacturing method to produce stimuli-responsive materials into architected cellular fluidics to address the liquid transport limits of conventional materials. The printable inks with shape memory properties were developed and used to build smart cellular fluidics. We also conducted liquid transport tests on these structures to demonstrate their self-pumping capability during shape change. This project is crucial to many chemical engineering processes, such as fog harvesting, liquid separation, and bubble collection, and may facilitate energy saving and carbon neutrality revolutions. It also paves the way for next generation smart cellular fluidics that can accurately control the liquid transport direction, speed, distance, and volume.

Mission Impact

This project will directly support Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) mission in Climate and Energy Security by creating the first shape memory cellular fluidics and providing a platform that can be adapted into almost all liquid transport systems. This work also advances LLNL Core Competency in Advanced Materials & Manufacturing by formulating inks, and printing smart materials using existing AM techniques. The prototype structures developed in this work can be leveraged for several ongoing applied Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)- sponsored research activities within the Energy Security Program, including carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction, hydrogen production, water desalination, as well as catalyst degradation within the Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technology Office and the Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Technologies Office.