Sonication-enabled rapid production of stable liquid metal nanoparticles grafted with poly(1-octadecene-alt-maleic anhydride) in aqueous solutions
Gallium-based liquid metals are attractive due to their unique combination of metallic and fluidic properties. Liquid metal nanoparticles (LM NPs), produced readily using sonication, find use in soft electronics, drug delivery, and other applications. However, LM NPs in aqueous solutions tend to oxidize and precipitate over time, which hinders their utility in systems that require long-term stability. Here, we introduce a facile route to rapidly produce an aqueous suspension of stable LM NPs within five minutes. We accomplish this by dissolving poly(1-octadecene-alt-maleic anhydride) (POMA) in toluene and mixing with deionized water in the presence of a liquid metal (LM). Sonicating the mixture results in the formation of toluene–POMA emulsions that embed the LM NPs; as the toluene evaporates, POMA coats the particles. Due to the POMA hydrophobic coating, the LM NPs remain stable in biological buffers for at least 60 days without noticeable oxidation, as confirmed by dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy. Further stabilization is achieved by tuning the LM composition. This paper elucidates the stabilization mechanisms. The stable LM NPs possess the potential to advance the use of LM in biomedical applications.