Ready... set, flow: simple fabrication of microdroplet generators and their use in the synthesis of PolyHIPE microspheres
Lapierre, F and Cameron, NR and Zhu, Y, Ready... set, flow: simple fabrication of microdroplet generators and their use in the synthesis of PolyHIPE microspheres, Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, 25, (3) Article 035011. ISSN 0960-1317 (2015) [Refereed Article]
During the last decade, research and development in microfluidic devices have grown significantly due to their wide variety of applications in physics, chemistry and biology. A specific category of microfluidic devices focuses on the generation of micro-emulsions that can be used, for example, as chemical and biological reactors to synthesize new materials and perform assays. However, the traditional fabrication process of such microfluidic devices involves the use of special instrumentations and clean room facilities. These steps are generally expensive, time consuming and require specific levels of expertise. In this article, an alternative method to fabricate robust microfluidic devices using conventional components and a new commercially available self-setting rubber is presented. Using this method, a cheap, reproducible and easy to manufacture microfluidic device has been developed for generating single and double emulsions in the range of 100s of µm with high throughput. One possible application of this device is demonstrated with the synthesis of highly porous polymer beads from a High Internal Phase Emulsion (HIPE). The fabricated microbeads could find potential application in 3D cell culture due to their high porosity (up to 95%) and pore size (from 5 to 30 µm). The process here presented offers great opportunities for chemists and biologists interested in synthesising new materials while minimizing time, costs and expertise in the development of microfluidic systems.