Tuning the porosity of biofabricated chitosan membranes in microfluidics with co-assembled nanoparticles as templates†
Biopolymer membranes assembled in microfluidic devices offer many biological process- and analysis-related applications. One of the key characteristics of bio-fabricated membranes is their porosity, which regulates the transport of molecules, ions, or particles and contributes to their semi-permeability and selectivity. This study aims to tune the porosity of biofabricated chitosan membranes (CM) using incorporated nanoparticles as templates. CM with polystyrene nanoparticles (CM-np) were assembled by flow in microchannel networks. The membranes with incorporated nanoparticles were crosslinked with glutaraldehyde, and then the nanoparticles were dissolved with dimethyl sulfoxide. The in situ synthesized porous CM (pCM) were characterized with scanning electron microscopy and polarized light microscopy. Permeability tests confirmed the increased pore sizes of the pCM and enhanced permeability to macromolecules. Sharper static gradients in three-channel microfluidic devices were demonstrated with the pCM as compared to those with the original CM. The capability to customize the porosity of flow-assembled, freestanding and robust biopolymer membranes inside a microfluidic network is attractive and broadens the applications of these membranes in biomolecular and cellular studies.