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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2014 Dec 10;6(23):21446-53. doi: 10.1021/am506443e. Epub 2014 Nov 7.

Fluorinated pickering emulsions impede interfacial transport and form rigid interface for the growth of anchorage-dependent cells.

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Department of Material Science and Engineering, Stanford University , Stanford, California 94305-2004, United States.


This study describes the design and synthesis of amphiphilic silica nanoparticles for the stabilization of aqueous drops in fluorinated oils for applications in droplet microfluidics. The success of droplet microfluidics has thus far relied on one type of surfactant for the stabilization of drops. However, surfactants are known to have two key limitations: (1) interdrop molecular transport leads to cross-contamination of droplet contents, and (2) the incompatibility with the growth of adherent mammalian cells as the liquid-liquid interface is too soft for cell adhesion. The use of nanoparticles as emulsifiers overcomes these two limitations. Particles are effective in mitigating undesirable interdrop molecular transport as they are irreversibly adsorbed to the liquid-liquid interface. They do not form micelles as surfactants do, and thus, a major pathway for interdrop transport is eliminated. In addition, particles at the droplet interface provide a rigid solid-like interface to which cells could adhere and spread, and are thus compatible with the proliferation of adherent mammalian cells such as fibroblasts and breast cancer cells. The particles described in this work can enable new applications for high-fidelity assays and for the culture of anchorage-dependent cells in droplet microfluidics, and they have the potential to become a competitive alternative to current surfactant systems for the stabilization of drops critical for the success of the technology.


Pickering emulsion; amphiphilicity; biocompatibility; droplet microfluidics; nanoparticles

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