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Langmuir. 2007 Dec 4;23(25):12489-96. Epub 2007 Nov 9.

Preparation of calcium alginate microgel beads in an electrodispersion reactor using an internal source of calcium carbonate nanoparticles.

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School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2100, USA.


An electrodispersion reactor has been used to prepare calcium alginate (Ca-alginate) microgel beads in this study. In the electrodispersion reactor, pulsed electric fields are utilized to atomize aqueous mixtures of sodium alginate and CaCO3 nanoparticles (dispersed phase) from a nozzle into an immiscible, insulating second liquid (continuous phase) containing a soluble organic acid. This technique combines the features of the electrohydrodynamic force driven emulsion processes and externally triggered gelations in microreactors (the droplets) ultimately to yield soft gel beads. The average particle size of the Ca-alginate gels generated by this method changed from 412 +/- 90 to 10 +/- 3 microm as the applied peak voltage was increased. A diagram depicting structural information for the Ca-alginate was constructed as a function of the concentrations of sodium alginate and CaCO3 nanoparticles. From this diagram, a critical concentration of sodium alginate required for sol-gel transformation was observed. The characteristic highly porous structure of Ca-alginate particles made by this technique appears suitable for microencapsulation applications. Finally, time scale analysis was performed for the electrodispersion processes that include reactions in the microreactor droplets to provide guidelines for the future employment of this technique. This electrodispersion reactor can be used potentially in the formation of many reaction-based microencapsulation systems.

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