Available Technologies

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Three dimensional printing of supramolecular hydrogels

Technology Overview: 

The Burdick Lab has developed a new method of printing 3D structures using supramolecular hydrogels. These gels are both shear-thinning and rapidly self-healing. The shear-thinning feature allows for the material in gel or solid form to be forced through a channel (as in a needle), causing bond dissociation and thus allowing for the material to behave in a fluid-like fashion.

Because the gel is self-healing, once the needle is removed, the bonds re-form and stabilize the structure. This mechanism enables the printing of channel-like structures, overhangs, spiral, spherical pockets of material.

Supramolecular hydrogels are versatile and can be combined with biological components such as cells to print high resolution, tissue-like structures, that could be used as models of healthy and diseased tissues for biological research, drug screening, and as therapeutic implants for damaged tissues.  The combination of resolution, ability to address 3D space and flexibility in printed materials is currently unmatched by other 3D printing technologies.


  • Custom designed extrusion hardware and hydrogel properties allow for micron scale resolution.
  • Capable of arbitrary 3D placement and/or the repeating modification of a single point in 3D. The material can serve as both the printed “ink” as well as the support matrix, enabling the creation of multiple layers and complex structures.
  • Material properties can also be altered by light-reactive chemistries for even finer control of structure.
  • The supramolecular material can be selectively removed to serve as a template for the formation of the final structure.
  • Material can be combined with other materials such as collagen, PEG, as well as compatible for live cells.

Stage of Development:

  • Refinement of hardware, software and materials is under way, with the expectation of approaching resolution in the single-micron range. 10 micron resolution already achieved.
  • Capability of layering printed materials, including the creation of channels has been demonstrated.  

Intellectual Property:

Reference Media:

Highley CB et al.  Advanced Materials, 2015, 27, p. 5075-5079.

Desired Partnerships:

  • License
  • Sponsored research

Patent Information:


Docket # 15-7350

For Information, Contact:

Qishui Chen Licensing Officer, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania