Digitally tunable physicochemical coding of material composition and topography in continuous microfibres

Nat Mater. 2011 Sep 4;10(11):877-83. doi: 10.1038/nmat3108.


Heterotypic functional materials with compositional and topographical properties that vary spatiotemporally on the micro- or nanoscale are common in nature. However, fabricating such complex materials in the laboratory remains challenging. Here we describe a method to continuously create microfibres with tunable morphological, structural and chemical features using a microfluidic system consisting of a digital, programmable flow control that mimics the silk-spinning process of spiders. With this method we fabricated hydrogel microfibres coded with varying chemical composition and topography along the fibre, including gas micro-bubbles as well as nanoporous spindle-knots and joints that enabled directional water collection. We also explored the potential use of the coded microfibres for tissue engineering applications by creating multifunctional microfibres with a spatially controlled co-culture of encapsulated cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Spiders
  • Tissue Engineering / methods


  • Silk