Microfluidics tubing as a synthesizer for ordered microgel networks
Ordered microgel networks have undergone extensive research and shown translational promise in tissue engineering, precision and regenerative medicine, controlled delivery, optics and electronics, etc. Here, we introduce a new low-cost and efficient synthesizer for ordered microgel networks. The gel precursor microdroplets are formulated and incubated in a microfluidics tubing system to obtain tailorable and reproducible microgels, which are then patterned into networks under the precise spatiotemporal control of the tubing system and integrated either by crosslinking the microgel interfaces or by forming lipid bilayers at the interfaces. The system can synthesize ordered networks out of heterogeneous microgels by withdrawing multi-phase cell-laden or acellular gel precursors into the tubing and gelation, or out of homogeneous microgels by simultaneously injecting gel precursors and immiscible oil into the tubing and gelation. The ordered gel networks are synthesized at the tubing outlet or within a piece of enlarging tubing, where the microgels are collided and glued in defined sequences.