Biocompatible surfactants for water-in-fluorocarbon emulsions

Lab Chip. 2008 Oct;8(10):1632-9. doi: 10.1039/b806706f. Epub 2008 Sep 2.


Drops of water-in-fluorocarbon emulsions have great potential for compartmentalizing both in vitro and in vivo biological systems; however, surfactants to stabilize such emulsions are scarce. Here we present a novel class of fluorosurfactants that we synthesize by coupling oligomeric perfluorinated polyethers (PFPE) with polyethyleneglycol (PEG). We demonstrate that these block copolymer surfactants stabilize water-in-fluorocarbon oil emulsions during all necessary steps of a drop-based experiment including drop formation, incubation, and reinjection into a second microfluidic device. Furthermore, we show that aqueous drops stabilized with these surfactants can be used for in vitro translation (IVT), as well as encapsulation and incubation of single cells. The compatability of this emulsion system with both biological systems and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic devices makes these surfactants ideal for a broad range of high-throughput, drop-based applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Emulsions*
  • Fluorocarbons / chemistry*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry*
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Emulsions
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Water
  • Polyethylene Glycols