Top up and top down: self-assembling and 3D printing custom photonic waveguides and components”, (KEYNOTE),

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We have proposed and shown that the combined bottom-up self-assembly of nanoparticles using inter-particle electrostatic or van der Waals forces with subsequent induced macro-mechanical stresses generated with a confined volume is an effective means of creating optical components, slabs and micro-wires having a uniquely periodic porous structure into which material scan be infiltrated [1-6]. The ubiquity of such inter-particle forces means that the system is almost interference free for the in-situ or subsequent introduction of many components – in this way efficient photo catalysis has been demonstrated [7]. Although the role of self-assembled water within the nanopores of these wires is yet to be fully resolved, anomalous diffusion suggests water itself is expected to have exciting properties under confinement, potentially including some of the nonlinear properties proposed in [8,9]. (These are properties that form the basis for the manifestation of life and that may have significant implications for current views on health, such as the impact of WiFi [10]). By contrast, 3D printing is presently a predominately (though not entirely) macro-driven approach that is disrupting many fields and applications. We have demonstrated, for example, that high quality optical micro-wires can be top-down-drawn down using low-cost FDM printers as micro-furnaces [11] and that integrated optics is also possible [12]. Optical preforms, structured and step-index, can be directly 3D printed with SLA methods providing micron resolution [13-15]. More recently, we have developed a novel approach using 3D printing materials to generate high quality smooth optical cavities. I will review some of our material approaches, provocatively demonstrating the low cost approach we have adopted in part as a wider argument that much science and engineering can potentially be done by the public as education is increasingly accessible online. Going well beyond so-called citizen science, I suggest it is this ability and accessibility to undertaking research that may end up being one of the most significant and disruptive transformations in education and therefore society. (More provocatively, this may arguably go further than the deficit in the Australian economy experienced soon after the reduction and outsourcing of university workshop resources and capabilities back in the eighties as part of a response to government cuts, which may have helped fuel an industry and expertise exodus offshore).
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