Time-resolved dynamics of laser-induced micro-jets from thin liquid films

Matthew S. Brown, Nicholas T. Kattamis, Craig B. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) is a high-resolution direct-write technique, which can print a wide range of liquid materials without a nozzle. In this process, a pulsed laser initiates the expulsion of a highvelocity micro-jet of fluid from a thin donor film. LIFT involves a novel regime for impulsively driven free-surface jetting in that viscous forces developed in the thin film become relevant within the jet lifetime. In this work, timeresolved microscopy is used to study the dynamics of the laser-induced ejection process. We consider the influence of thin metal and thick polymer laser-absorbing layers on the flow actuation mechanism and resulting jet dynamics. Both films exhibit a mechanism in which flow is driven by the rapid expansion of a gas bubble within the liquid film. We present high-resolution images of the transient gas cavities, the resulting ejection of high aspect ratio external jets, as well as the first images of re-entrant jets formed during LIFT. These observations are interpreted in the context of similar work on cavitation bubble formation near free surfaces and rigid interfaces. Additionally, by increasing the laser beam size used on the polymer absorbing layer, we observe a transition to an alternate mechanism for jet formation, which is driven by the rapid expansion of a blister on the polymer surface. We compare the dynamics of these blister-actuated jets to those of the gas-actuated mechanism. Finally, we analyze these results in the context of printing sensitive ink materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalMicrofluidics and Nanofluidics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry


  • Cavitation
  • Laser-induced forward transfer
  • Printing
  • Re-entrant jet


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