Interfacial rheological properties of self-assembling biopolymer microcapsules†
Tuning the mechanical properties of microcapsules through a cost-efficient route of fabrication is still a challenge. The traditional method of layer-by-layer assembly of microcapsules allows building a tailored composite multi-layer membrane but is technically complex as it requires numerous steps. The objective of this article is to characterize the interfacial rheological properties of self-assembling biopolymer microcapsules that were obtained in one single facile step. This thorough study provides new insights into the mechanics of these weakly cohesive membranes. Firstly, suspensions of water-in-oil microcapsules were formed in microfluidic junctions by self-assembly of two oppositely charged polyelectrolytes, namely chitosan (water soluble) and phosphatidic fatty acid (oil soluble). In this way, composite membranes of tunable thickness (between 40 and 900 nm measured by AFM) were formed at water/oil interfaces in a single step by changing the composition. Secondly, microcapsules were mechanically characterized by stretching them up to break-up in an extensional flow chamber which extends the relevance and convenience of the hydrodynamic method to weakly cohesive membranes. Finally, we show that the design of microcapsules can be ‘engineered’ in an extensive way since they present a wealth of interfacial rheological properties in terms of elasticity, plasticity and yield stress whose magnitudes can be controlled by the composition. These behaviors are explained by the variation of the membrane thickness with the physico-chemical parameters of the process.