Microfluidics and Nanofluidics

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 199–207 | Cite as

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

  • Matthew S. Brown
  • Nicholas T. Kattamis
  • Craig B. Arnold
Research Paper


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 high-velocity 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, time-resolved 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.


Laser-induced forward transfer Cavitation Re-entrant jet Printing 



The authors thank Howard Stone, Dmitry Savransky, and Martí Duocastella for valuable discussions in preparing this manuscript. This work was supported by AFOSR (FA9550-08-1-0094) and NSF (NSF-DMR-0548147). MSB was supported in part by an NSF-IGERT fellowship, Grant #0903661 (Nanotechnology for Clean Energy).

Supplementary material

10404_2011_787_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (152 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 151 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew S. Brown
    • 1
  • Nicholas T. Kattamis
    • 1
  • Craig B. Arnold
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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