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J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Sep 20;128(37):12205-10.

Microfluidic production of biopolymer microcapsules with controlled morphology.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, 80 Saint George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H6, Canada.


We report a microfluidic approach to generating capsules of biopolymer hydrogels. Droplets of an aqueous solution of a biopolymer were emulsified in an organic phase comprising a cross-linking agent. Polymer gelation was achieved in situ (on a microfluidic chip) by diffusion-controlled ionic cross-linking of the biopolymer, following the transfer of the cross-linking agent from the continuous phase to the droplets. Gelation was quenched by collecting particles in a large pool of cross-linking agent-free liquid. The structure of microgels (from capsules to gradient microgels to particles with a uniform structure) was controlled by varying the time of residence of droplets on the microfluidic chip and the concentration of the cross-linking agent in the continuous phase. We demonstrated the encapsulation of a controlled number of polystyrene beads in the microgel capsules. The described approach was applied to the preparation of capsules of several polysaccharides such as alginate, kappa-carrageenan, and carboxymethylcellulose.

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