Microfluidic Generation of Particle-Stabilized Water-in-Water Emulsions
Abbasi, N.; Navi, M.; Tsai, S.S.H.
Langmuir 34(1): 213-218
ISSN/ISBN: 0743-7463 PMID: 29231744 DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b03245
Herein, we present a microfluidic platform that generates particle-stabilized water-in-water emulsions. The water-in-water system that we use is based on an aqueous two-phase system of polyethylene glycol (PEG) and dextran (DEX). DEX droplets are formed passively, in the continuous phase of PEG and carboxylated particle suspension at a flow-focusing junction inside a microfluidic device. As DEX droplets travel downstream inside the microchannel, carboxylated particles that are in the continuous phase partition to the interface of the DEX droplets due to their affinity to the interface of PEG and DEX. As the DEX droplets become covered with carboxylated particles, they become stabilized against coalescence. We study the coverage and stability of the emulsions, while tuning the concentration and the size of the carboxylated particles, downstream inside the reservoir of the microfluidic device. These particle-stabilized water-in-water emulsions showcase good particle adsorption under shear, while being flowed through narrow microchannels. The intrinsic biocompatibility advantages of particle-stabilized water-in-water emulsions make them a good alternative to traditional particle-stabilized water-in-oil emulsions. To illustrate a biotechnological application of this platform, we show a proof-of-principle of cell encapsulation using this system, which with further development may be used for immunoisolation of cells for transplantation purposes.