Continuous microfluidic fabrication of anisotropic microparticles for enhanced wastewater purification†
Anisotropic microparticles containing functional nanomaterials have attracted growing interest due to their enhanced performance in diverse applications ranging from catalysts to environmental remediation. However, the preparation of anisotropic microparticles with highly controlled morphologies and dimensions usually suffers from a limited material choice. Here, we develop a facile strategy to continuously prepare anisotropic microparticles with their shapes changing from spherical to pear-like, maraca-like and rod-like for enhanced water decontamination. Anisotropic microparticles are produced by deforming oil-droplet templates within microfibers and then locking their shapes via thermo/photo-polymerization. The sizes and geometries of the oil-droplet templates are precisely controlled by varying the fluid flow conditions. In addition, porous spherical and rod-like microparticles are functionalized for photocatalytic degradation of organic contaminants by incorporating functional TiO2 and Fe3O4 nanoparticles. Compared to spherical microparticles with equal volume, functionalized rod-like microparticles exhibit better performance in removal of contaminants due to their larger specific surface area, which facilitates the contact between the loaded catalysts and organic pollutants. Moreover, the magnetic rod-like microparticles can be easily recovered and reused without deterioration of catalytic performance. The proposed strategy in this study is useful for producing anisotropic microparticles with well-tailored shapes via different polymerization methods and extending their potential applications.