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Lab Chip. 2016 Aug 2;16(16):2987-95. doi: 10.1039/c6lc00208k.

Non-spherical particle generation from 4D optofluidic fabrication.

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Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 110 8th St, Troy, NY 12180, USA.


Particles with non-spherical shapes can exhibit properties which are not available from spherical shaped particles. Complex shaped particles can provide unique benefits for areas such as drug delivery, tissue engineering, structural materials, and self-assembly building blocks. Current methods of creating complex shaped particles such as 3D printing, photolithography, and imprint lithography are limited by either slow speeds, shape limitations, or expensive processes. Previously, we presented a novel microfluidic flow lithography fabrication scheme combined with fluid inertia called optofluidic fabrication for the creation of complex shaped three-dimensional (3D) particles. This process was able to address the aforementioned limits and overcome two-dimensional shape limitations faced by traditional flow lithography methods; however, all of the created 3D particle shapes displayed top-down symmetry. Here, by introducing the time dimension into our existing optofluidic fabrication process, we break this top-down symmetry, generating fully asymmetric 3D particles where we termed the process: four-dimensional (4D) optofluidic fabrication. This 4D optofluidic fabrication is comprised of three sequential procedures. First, density mismatched precursor fluids flow past pillars within fluidic channels to manipulate the flow cross sections via fluid inertia. Next, the time dimension is incorporated by stopping the flow and allowing the denser fluids to settle by gravity to create asymmetric flow cross sections. Finally, the fluids are exposed to patterned ultraviolet (UV) light in order to polymerize fully asymmetric 3D-shaped particles. By varying inertial flow shaping, gravity-induced flow shaping, and UV light patterns, 4D optofluidic fabrication can create an infinite set of complex shaped asymmetric particles.


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