skip to main content

Title: A Surfactant-Free Microfluidic Process For Fabrication Of Multi-Hollow Polyimide Aerogel Particles
This work focuses on fabrication of multi-hollow polyimide gel and aerogel particles from a surfactant-free oil-in-oil emulsion system using a microfluidic droplet generator operating under dripping mode. The multi-hollow gel and aerogel particles have strong potential in thermal insulation. Under jetting and tip-streaming regime of microfluidic flows, droplets are generated with no occluded liquid phase. The present study investigates a means of designing polyimide gel particles with plurality of internal liquid droplets by strategically manipulating the flow rates of the continuous and dispersed phase liquids through the microfluidic droplet generator. The multi-hollow polyimide aerogel particles obtained after supercritical drying of the gel particles present mesopores, high BET surface area, and excellent prospect for thermal insulation.
; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
International polymer processing
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. A prototype aerosol detection system is presented that is designed to accurately and quickly measure the concentration of selected inorganic ions in the atmosphere. The aerosol detection system combines digital microfluidics technology, aerosol impaction and chemical detection integrated on the same chip. Target compounds are the major inorganic aerosol constituents: sulfate, nitrate and ammonium. The digital microfluidic system consists of top and bottom plates that sandwich a fluid layer. Nozzles for an inertial impactor are built into the top plate according to known, scaling principles. The deposited air particles are densely concentrated in well-defined deposits on the bottom plate containingmore »droplet actuation electrodes of the chip in fixed areas. The aerosol collection efficiency for particles larger than 100 nm in diameter was higher than 95%. After a collection phase, deposits are dissolved into a scanning droplet. Due to a sub-microliter droplet size, the obtained extract is highly concentrated. Droplets then pass through an air/oil interface on chip for colorimetric analysis by spectrophotometry using optical fibers placed between the two plates of the chip. To create a standard curve for each analyte, six different concentrations of liquid standards were chosen for each assay and dispensed from on-chip reservoirs. The droplet mixing was completed in a few seconds and the final droplet was transported to the detection position as soon as the mixing was finished. Limits of detection (LOD) in the final droplet were determined to be 11 ppm for sulfate and 0.26 ppm for ammonium. For nitrate, it was impossible to get stable measurements. The LOD of the on-chip measurements for sulfate was close to that obtained by an off-chip method using a Tecan spectrometer. LOD of the on-chip method for ammonium was about five times larger than what was obtained with the off-chip method. For the current impactor collection air flow (1 L/min) and 1 h collection time, the converted LODs in air were: 0.275 μg/m3 for sulfate, 6.5 ng/m3 for ammonium, sufficient for most ambient air monitoring applications.« less
  2. Although the utilization of rigid particles can afford stable emulsions, some applications require eventual emulsion destabilization to release contents captured in the particle-covered droplet. This destabilizing effect is achieved when using stabilizers that respond to controlled changes in environment. Microgels can be synthesized as stimuli responsive polymeric gel networks that adsorb to oil/water interfaces and stabilize emulsions. These particles are commonly hydrogels that swell and collapse in water in response to environmental changes. However, amphiphilic functionality is desired to enhance the adsorption abilities of these hydrogels while maintaining their stimuli responsivity. Microfluidic techniques are used to synthesize Janus microgels withmore »two opposing stimuli responsive hemispheres. The particles have a temperature responsive domain connected to a pH responsive network where each side changes its hydrophilicity in response to a change in temperature or pH, respectively. The Janus microgels are amphiphilic in acidic conditions at 19 °C and alkaline conditions at 40 °C, while the opposite conditions cause a reduction of the amphiphilicity. By stabilizing emulsions with these dual responsive microgels, “smart” droplets that respond to environmental cues are formed. Emulsion droplets remain stable with smaller diameters when aqueous solution conditions favor amphiphilic particles yet, coalesce to larger droplets upon changing pH or temperature. These responsive Janus microgels represent the advancing technology of responsive droplets and demonstrate the applicability of microgels as emulsion stabilizers.« less
  3. Microcapsules allow for the controlled containment, transport, and release of cargoes ranging from pharmaceuticals to fragrances. Given the interest from a variety of industries in microcapsules and other core–shell structures, a multitude of fabrication strategies exist. Here, we report on a method relying on a mixture of temperature-responsive microgel particles, poly( N -isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAM), and a polymer which undergo fluid–fluid phase separation. At room temperature this mixture separates into colloid-rich (liquid) and colloid-poor (gas) fluids. By heating the sample above a critical temperature where the microgel particles shrink dramatically and develop a more deeply attractive interparticle potential, the droplets ofmore »the colloid-rich phase become gel-like. As the temperature is lowered back to room temperature, these droplets of gelled colloidal particles reliquefy and phase separation within the droplet occurs. This phase separation leads to colloid-poor droplets within the colloid-rich droplets surrounded by a continuous colloid-poor phase. The gas/liquid/gas all-aqueous double emulsion lasts only a few minutes before a majority of the inner droplets escape. However, the colloid-rich shell of the core–shell droplets can solidify with the addition of salt. That this method creates core–shell structures with a shell composed of stimuli-sensitive microgel colloidal particles using only aqueous components makes it attractive for encapsulating biological materials and making capsules that respond to changes in, for example, temperature, salt concentration, or pH.« less
  4. Proteins make up much of the machinery of cells and perform many roles that are essential for life. Some important proteins – known as intrinsically disordered proteins – lack any stable three-dimensional structure. One such protein, called tau, is best known for its ability to form tangles in the brain, and a buildup of these tangles is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and many other dementias. Tau is also one of a number of proteins that can undergo a process called liquid-liquid phase separation: essentially, a solution of tau separates into a very dilute solution interspersed with droplets of amore »concentrated tau solution, similar to an oil-water mixture separating into a very watery solution with drops of oil. Understanding the conditions that lead to spontaneous liquid-liquid phase separation might give insight into how the tau tangles form. However, it was not known whether it is possible in principle for liquid-liquid phase separation of tau to occur in a living brain. Lin, McCarty et al. have now used an advanced computer simulation method together with experiments to map the conditions under which a solution containing tau undergoes liquid-liquid phase separation. Temperature as well as the concentrations of salt and the tau protein all influenced how easily tau droplets formed or dissolved, and the narrow range of conditions that encouraged droplet formation fell within the normal conditions found in the body, also known as “physiological conditions”. This suggested that tau droplets might form and dissolve easily in living systems, and possibly in the brain, depending on the precise physiological conditions. To explore this possibility further, tau protein was added to a dish containing living cells. As the map suggested, slightly adjusting temperature or protein concentrations caused tau droplets to form and dissolve, all while the cells remained alive. The map provided by this study may offer guides to researchers looking for liquid-liquid phase separation in the brain. If liquid-liquid phase separation of tau occurs in living brains, it may be important for determining whether and when damaging tau tangles emerge. For example, the high concentration of tau in droplets might speed up tangle formation. Ultimately, a better understanding of the conditions and mechanism for liquid-liquid phase separation of tau can help researchers understand the role of protein droplet formation in living systems. This may be a process that promotes, or possibly a regulatory mechanism that prevents, the formation of tau tangles associated with dementia.« less
  5. A ubiquitous structural feature in biological systems is texture in extracellular matrix that gains functions when hardened, for example, cell walls, insect scales, and diatom tests. Here, we develop patterned liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) particles by recapitulating the biophysical patterning mechanism that forms pollen grain surfaces. In pollen grains, a phase separation of extracellular material into a pattern of condensed and fluid-like phases induces undulations in the underlying elastic cell membrane to form patterns on the cell surface. In this work, LCE particles with variable surface patterns were created through a phase separation of liquid crystal oligomers (LCOs) droplet coupledmore »to homeotropic anchoring at the droplet interface, analogously to the pollen grain wall formation. Specifically, nematically ordered polydisperse LCOs and isotropic organic solvent (dichloromethane) phase-separate at the surface of oil-in-water droplets, while, different LCO chain lengths segregate to different surface curvatures simultaneously. This phase separation, which creates a distortion in the director field, is in competition with homeotropic anchoring induced by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). By tuning the polymer chemistry of the system, we are able to influence this separation process and tune the types of surface patterns in these pollen-like microparticles. Our study reveals that the energetically favorable biological mechanism can be leveraged to offer simple yet versatile approaches to synthesize microparticles for mechanosensing, tissue engineering, drug delivery, energy storage, and displays.

    « less