Microfluidic approaches for controlled generation of colloidal clusters, for example, via encapsulation of colloidal particles in droplets, have been used for the synthesis of functional materials including drug delivery carriers. Most of the studies, however, use a low concentration of an original colloidal suspension (<10 wt %). Here we demonstrate microfluidic approaches for directly making droplets with moderate (10-25 wt %) and high (>60 wt %) particle concentrations. Three types of microfluidic devices, PDMS flow-focusing, PDMS T-junction, and microcapillary devices, are investigated for direct encapsulation of a high concentration of polystyrene (PS) nanoparticles in droplets. In particular, it is shown that PDMS devices fabricated by soft lithography can generate droplets from a 25 wt % PS suspension, whereas microcapillary devices made from glass capillary tubes are able to produce droplets from a 67 wt % PS nanoparticle suspension. When the PS concentration is between 0.6 and 25 wt %, the size of the droplets is found to change with the oil-to-water flow rate ratio and is independent of the concentration of particles in the initial suspensions. Drop sizes from ∼12 to 40 μm are made using flow rate ratios Qoil/Qwater from 20 to 1, respectively, with either of the PDMS devices. However, clogging occurs in PDMS devices at high PS concentrations (>25 wt %) arising from interactions between the PS colloids and the surface of PDMS devices. Glass microcapillary devices, on the other hand, are resistant to clogging and can produce droplets continuously even when the concentration of PS nanoparticles reaches 67 wt %. We believe that our findings indicate useful approaches and guidelines for the controlled generation of emulsions filled with a high loading of nanoparticles, which are useful for drug delivery applications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Surfaces and Interfaces