Weaving colloidal webs around droplets: spontaneous assembly of extended colloidal networks encasing microfluidic droplet ensembles†
The ability to form transient, self-assembling solid networks that ‘cocoon’ emulsion droplets on-demand allows new possibilities in the rapidly expanding area of microfluidic droplet-based materials science. In this communication, we demonstrate the spontaneous formation of extended colloidal networks that encase large microfluidic droplet ensembles, thus completely arresting droplet motion and effectively isolating each droplet from others in the ensemble. To do this, we employ molecular inclusion complexes of β-cyclodextrin, which spontaneously form and assemble into colloidal solids at the droplet interface and beyond, via the outward diffusion of a guest molecule (dichloromethane) from the droplets. We illustrate the advantage of such transient network-based droplet stabilization in the area of pharmaceutical crystallization, where we are able to fabricate monodisperse spherical crystalline microgranules of 5-methyl-2-[(2-nitrophenyl)amino]-3-thiophenecarbonitrile (ROY), a model hydrophobic drug, with a dramatic enhancement of particle properties compared to conventional methods.