Continuous-flow lithography for high-throughput microparticle synthesis

Nat Mater. 2006 May;5(5):365-9. doi: 10.1038/nmat1617. Epub 2006 Apr 9.


Precisely shaped polymeric particles and structures are widely used for applications in photonic materials, MEMS, biomaterials and self-assembly. Current approaches for particle synthesis are either batch processes or flow-through microfluidic schemes that are based on two-phase systems, limiting the throughput, shape and functionality of the particles. We report a one-phase method that combines the advantages of microscope projection photolithography and microfluidics to continuously form morphologically complex or multifunctional particles down to the colloidal length scale. Exploiting the inhibition of free-radical polymerization near PDMS surfaces, we are able to repeatedly pattern and flow rows of particles in less than 0.1 s, affording a throughput of near 100 particles per second using the simplest of device designs. Polymerization was also carried out across laminar, co-flowing streams to generate Janus particles containing different chemistries, whose relative proportions could be easily tuned. This new high-throughput technique offers unprecedented control over particle size, shape and anisotropy.