Researchers are constantly working on creating new ways to assemble micrometer scale objects to enable a variety of devices and technologies, including biological sensors and other medical devices. These devices are more complicated than just a shape though, so there must be a way to attach certain molecules and cells to the surface of the objects. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have developed 3D-photografting which lets them do just that.
The researchers took a hydrogel, a loose network of macromolecules with large pores between the molecules, and using a laser they broke bonds at specific points on along it. This allows reactions to occur at those locations, and molecules and living cells to attach. It is similar to giving a plant a trellis on which to grow and could be used to create scaffolding for cells to attach to and grow on.
Potentially this technology could be used to create not only medical devices but also photovoltaics. Increasing the amount of surface area on an object allows more photovoltaic material to be attached to it for harvesting light.