Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they've developed a device that can produce superior next-generation fibers at a fraction of their current cost.
Although the use of meshes made from nanometer-scale fibers isn't entirely new, MIT materials scientists said that those fabrics are difficult to produce because the device that makes them needs to be essentially etched into silicon in an air-tight room.
The MIT group, however, developed a way to produce a similar system with a commercial 3D printer.
What's more, the simpler, cheaper method also resulted in a device that matched the production of current systems — but significantly curbed any variation in the diameters of the fibers, which makes the final mesh more reliable.
The 3D printer also makes it much easier to test and revise designs.
The better materials and lower costs could combine to bring nanofiber meshes into the commercial market more quickly.
MIT scientists said that they could be helpful for everything from solar cells and fuel cell electrodes to water filters and body armor.