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Creators/Authors contains: "Stoyanov, Simeon D."

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  1. Abstract

    It is challenging to find a conventional nanofabrication technique that can consistently produce soft polymeric matter of high surface area and nanoscale morphology in a way that is scalable, versatile, and easily tunable. Here, the capabilities of a universal method for fabricating diverse nano‐ and micro‐scale morphologies based on polymer precipitation templated by the fluid streamlines in multiphasic flow are explored. It is shown that while the procedure is operationally simple, various combinations of its intertwined mechanisms can controllably and reproducibly lead to the formation of an extraordinary wide range of colloidal morphologies. By systematically investigating the process conditions, 12 distinct classes of polymer micro‐ and nano‐structures including particles, rods, ribbons, nanosheets, and soft dendritic colloids (dendricolloids) are identified. The outcomes are interpreted by delineating the physical processes into three stages: hydrodynamic shear, capillary and mechanical breakup, and polymer precipitation rate. The insights into the underlying fundamental mechanisms provide guidance toward developing a versatile and scalable nanofabrication platform. It is verified that the liquid shear‐based technique is versatile and works well with many chemically diverse polymers and biopolymers, showing potential as a universal tool for simple and scalable nanofabrication of many morphologically distinct soft matter classes.

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  2. Abstract

    The design of hydrogels where multiple interpenetrating networks enable enhanced mechanical properties can broaden their field of application in biomedical materials, 3D printing, and soft robotics. We report a class of self-reinforced homocomposite hydrogels (HHGs) comprised of interpenetrating networks of multiscale hierarchy. A molecular alginate gel is reinforced by a colloidal network of hierarchically branched alginate soft dendritic colloids (SDCs). The reinforcement of the molecular gel with the nanofibrillar SDC network of the same biopolymer results in a remarkable increase of the HHG’s mechanical properties. The viscoelastic HHGs show >3× larger storage modulus and >4× larger Young’s modulus than either constitutive network at the same concentration. Such synergistically enforced colloidal-molecular HHGs open up numerous opportunities for formulation of biocompatible gels with robust structure-property relationships. Balance of the ratio of their precursors facilitates precise control of the yield stress and rate of self-reinforcement, enabling efficient extrusion 3D printing of HHGs.

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  3. Abstract

    A highly controllable and scalable process for fabrication of large amounts of concentrated lignin nanoparticles (LNPs) is reported. These lignin core nanoparticles are formed through flash nanoprecipitation, however, scaling up of the fabrication process requires fundamental understanding of their operational formation mechanism and surface properties. It is shown how a semicontinuous synthesis system with a recirculation loop makes it possible to produce flash precipitated lignin nanoparticles in large amounts for practical applications. The roles of the process parameters, including flow rates and lignin concentration, are investigated and analyzed. The results indicate that the LNPs are formed by a process of continuous burst nucleation at the point of mixing without diffusive growth, which yields nanoparticles of highly uniform size following a modified LaMer nucleation and growth mechanism. This mechanism makes possible facile process control and scale‐up. Effective control of the resulting nanoparticle size is achieved through the initial concentration of lignin in the injected solution. The impressive capability to produce suspensions of any predesigned multimodal distribution is demonstrated. The resulting nanofabrication technique can produce large volumes of concentrated LNP suspensions of high stability and tightly controlled size distributions for biological or agricultural applications.

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  4. 3D printing of polymers is accomplished easily with thermoplastics as the extruded hot melt solidifies rapidly during the printing process. Printing with liquid polymer precursors is more challenging due to their longer curing times. One curable liquid polymer of specific interest is polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). This study demonstrates a new efficient technique for 3D printing with PDMS by using a capillary suspension ink containing PDMS in the form of both precured microbeads and uncured liquid precursor, dispersed in water as continuous medium. The PDMS microbeads are held together in thixotropic granular paste by capillary attraction induced by the liquid precursor. These capillary suspensions possess high storage moduli and yield stresses that are needed for direct ink writing. They could be 3D printed and cured both in air and under water. The resulting PDMS structures are remarkably elastic, flexible, and extensible. As the ink is made of porous, biocompatible silicone that can be printed directly inside aqueous medium, it can be used in 3D printed biomedical products, or in applications such as direct printing of bioscaffolds on live tissue. This study demonstrates a number of examples using the high softness, elasticity, and resilience of these 3D printed structures.

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