Microfluidic fabrication of smart microgels from macromolecular precursors

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Stimuli-responsive polymer microgels can be produced with exquisite control using droplet microfluidics; however, in existing methods, the droplet templating is strongly coupled to the material synthesis, because droplet solidification usually occurs through rapid polymerization immediately after the microfluidic droplet formation. This circumstance limits independent control of the material properties and the morphology of the resultant microgel particles. To overcome this limitation, we produce sensitive polymer microgels from pre-fabricated precursor polymers. We use microfluidic devices to emulsify semidilute solutions of crosslinkable poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) and solidify the drops via polymer-analogous gelation. This approach separates the polymer synthesis from the particle gelation and allows each to be controlled independently, thus enabling us to form monodisperse, thermo-responsive microgel particles with well-controlled composition and functionality. In addition, the microfluidic templating allows us to form complex particle morphologies such as hollow gel shells, anisotropic microgels, or multi-layered microgel capsules. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Times Cited: 16

Last updated on 04/15/2014