Continuous processing of phase-change materials into uniform nanoparticles for near-infrared-triggered drug release
We report a method based on interfacial, anti-solvent-induced precipitation in a fluidic device for the continuous and scalable processing of phase-change materials (PCMs) into uniform nanoparticles with controlled diameters in the range of 10–100 nm. A eutectic mixture of lauric acid and stearic acid, with a well-defined melting point at 39 °C, serves as an example to demonstrate the concept. In the fluidic device, a coaxial flow is created by introducing a PCM solution in ethanol and a lipid solution in water (the anti-solvent) as the focused and focusing phases, respectively. The formation of lipid-capped PCM nanoparticles is governed by diffusion-controlled mixing of ethanol and water. During the production, both doxorubicin (DOX, an anticancer drug) and indocyanine green (ICG, a near-infrared dye) can be readily loaded into the PCM nanoparticles to give a smart drug release system. Upon irradiation with near-infrared light, the photothermal heating caused by ICG can melt the PCM and thereby trigger the release of DOX. This work not only provides a new technique for the continuous processing of PCMs and other soft materials into uniform nanoparticles with controlled sizes but also demonstrates a biocompatible system for controlled release and related applications.