Microfluidic Production of Polymeric Functional Microparticles
Raghavan, Srinivasa R
DeVoe, Don L
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This dissertation focuses on applying droplet-based microfluidics to fabricate new classes of polymeric microparticles with customized properties for various applications. The integration of microfluidic techniques with microparticle engineering allows for unprecedented control over particle size, shape, and functional properties. Specifically, three types of microparticles are discussed here: (1) Magnetic and fluorescent chitosan hydrogel microparticles and their in-situ assembly into higher-order microstructures; (2) Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microbeads with phosphorescent properties for oxygen sensing; (3) Macroporous microparticles as biological immunosensors. First, we describe a microfluidic approach to generate monodisperse chitosan hydrogel microparticles that can be further connected in-situ into higher-order microstructures. Microparticles of the biopolymer chitosan are created continuously by contacting an aqueous solution of chitosan at a microfluidic T-junction with a stream of hexadecane containing a nonionic detergent, followed by downstream crosslinking of the generated droplets by a ternary flow of glutaraldehyde. Functional properties of the microparticles can be easily varied by introducing payloads such as magnetic nanoparticles and/or fluorescent dyes into the chitosan solution. We then use these prepared microparticles as "building blocks" and assemble them into high ordered microstructures, i.e. microchains with controlled geometry and flexibility. Next, we describe a new approach to produce monodisperse microbeads of PDMS using microfluidics. Using a flow-focusing configuration, a PDMS precursor solution is dispersed into microdroplets within an aqueous continuous phase. These droplets are collected and thermally cured off-chip into soft, solid microbeads. In addition, our technique allows for direct integration of payloads, such as an oxygen-sensitive porphyrin dye, into the PDMS microbeads. We then show that the resulting dye-bearing beads can function as non-invasive and real-time oxygen micro-sensors. Finally, we report a co-flow microfluidic method to prepare uniform polymer microparticles with macroporous texture, and investigate their application as discrete immunological biosensors for the detection of biological species. The matrix of such microparticles is based on macroporous polymethacrylate polymers configured with tailored pores ranging from hundreds of nanometers to a few microns. Subsequently, we immobilize bioactive antibodies on the particle surface, and demonstrate the immunological performance of these functionalized porous microbeads over a range of antigen concentrations.