Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 12th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Iced Tree

3D ice printing enables construction of complex shapes – potential application in microfluidics and drug delivery

25 December 2022

Iced Tree

In winter we might see frosted branches or icy fingers creeping down windowpanes. But now scientists are mimicking these natural patterns to 'grow' complex structures in a cold corner of the lab. This modified form of 3D printing involves raining water down onto a stage cooled to -35°C. The water freezes instantly – drop by drop the trees grow, each 'branch' designed by the speed of the drips and the movement of the stage. These tiny works of ice could serve as templates for reverse moulding – pouring resin around the ice and then simply letting it melt away – to make intricate microfluidic devices, or perhaps to arrange living cells. After all, as the authors say, “it doesn’t get any more biocompatible than water”. Might it even be possible to use the temporary structures as melting devices to deliver drugs? Or perhaps some very festive ice sculptures.

Written by John Ankers

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.