Bachelor's Thesis - materials science and engineering - 3D printing of glasses

We offer a Bachelor’s Thesis at the NeptunLab. The NeptunLab is the highly interdisciplinary research group of Prof. Bastian E. Rapp at the Department of Microsystems Technology (IMTEK) at the University of Freiburg. Research interests include the development of novel materials, technologies and processes for structuring materials and industrial applications. The work of the NeptunLab is published in the most important international journals including Lab-on-a-Chip, Advanced Materials, Angewandte Chemie and Nature and has been featured in national and international radio and print media including the BBC, the New York Times and the Discovery Channel.

Glasses are an important class of materials in scientific research, industry and society. Their unmatched optical transparency in combination with their chemical and thermal resistance make glasses ideal for the use in chemical synthesis, optics and photonics or medical applications. However glasses and especially high purity glasses like fused silica glass are notoriously difficult to structure: requiring high-temperature melting or hazardous etching processes.
We have recently developed a new method to fabricate high quality fused silica glass using silica nanocomposites (Kotz et al., Advanced Materials, 2016). Hereby glass nanocomposites are structured like a polymer and then turned into high-quality fused silica glass using thermal debinding and sintering. Using this technology it is for the first time possible to structure fused silica glass using 3D printing but also by high-throughput replication technologies like roll-to-roll replication (Kotz et al., Nature, 2017; Kotz et al. Advanced Materials, 2018). However, 3D printing usually creates parts with a rough surface along the printing direction due to the layer-by-layer based process (see Figure). In order to expand this process to the fabrication of optical components like e.g. lenses different surface finishing technologies for the reduction of the printed parts shall be evaluated.

Activities and responsibilities

  • Stereolithography printing of glass nanocomposites
  • Evaluation of different surface finishing technologies for the 3D printed parts
  • Surface characterization of the sintered glasses (e.g. AFM measurements, profilometer)

Qualification profile

  • Studies in materials science or microsystems engineering or related subjects
  • Basic knowledge of 3D printing and surface analysis are required
  • Knowledge of nanocomposites and how to operate a stereolithography printer are beneficial
  • Excellent academic track record
  • Excellent English skills in reading and writing
  • You should be a team player with ambition to solve problems and publish your results
  • You should be able to structure and document your work properly


  • An interdisciplinary work environment with a team of motivated scientists that strive to develop clever solutions for scientific as well as industrial problems
  • Well-funded projects with access to excellent state-of-the art infrastructure, generous lab space and scientific equipment
  • An aspiring young team with great emphasis on publications and publicity
  • A lab structure that promotes the development of the individual members and fosters open-minded scientific discussions
  • A strong focus on the career development of the candidate with the possibility to conduct industrially and socially relevant research with the distinct goal to produce scientific publications
  • An environment that supports start-up mentality – if your research is industrially applicable and promising, we will move towards commercialization of your solution

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