3D Printed Droplets On Demand

Creating complex emulsions just got easier with a customizable droplet generator built by scientists in Singapore.

AsianScientist (Feb. 14, 2019) – Researchers in Singapore have developed a customizable microfluidic system for generating complex dispersions of liquid droplets that are not soluble in another liquid, otherwise known as emulsions. Their findings are published in RSC Advances.

Emulsions are widely employed in the fields of drug delivery, chemical analysis, biological assays and material synthesis. Microfluidic droplet generators are typically designed by photolithography, manual assembly of fluidic units and 3D printing. However, researchers are faced with a tradeoff between ease of fabrication of devices and complexity of emulsions produced.

In this study, scientists led by Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) overcame the tradeoff by taking a modular approach to fabricating microfluidic droplet generators. Their technique involved using distinct modules of 3D-printed fittings, needles and tubes.

The researchers made a single device consisting of a 3D-printed connector and a needle secured by elastic tubes and aligned along a common axis. Each module of the device could be individually altered and additional modules could be easily attached to vary the type of emulsions produced.

Furthermore, by switching the needles attached to the device, the researchers were able to generate droplets of varying diameter, achieving a minimum diameter of 332 ± 10 μm. The devices were extended in serial and parallel directions using appropriate fittings that produced double emulsions and Janus particles—nanoparticles whose surfaces possess two or more different physical properties.

“Using simple fittings and low-cost units, we were able to rapidly prototype the device in a plug-and-play way. We demonstrated the customizability of the devices by producing simple and complex emulsions by assembling multiple modules together,” said Hashimoto.

The article can be found at: Vijayan & Hashimoto (2019) 3D Printed Fittings and Fluidic Modules for Customizable Droplet Generators.


Source: Singapore University of Technology and Design; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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