Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rice unveils ’green’ microcapsule production method

31.05.2005


Mix-and-shake procedure leads to instant glass microbubbles



Chemical engineers from Rice University have developed a fundamentally new approach - the most environmentally sensitive yet devised - for making tiny hollow spheres called microcapsules. Microcapsule research is one of the most active fields in applied nanotechnology, with dozens of companies either developing or using the tiny containers - usually smaller than living cells - to deliver everything from drugs and imaging agents to perfumes and flavor enhancers.

In research appearing on the cover of this month’s issue (Vol. 17, Issue. 9) of the journal Advanced Materials, Michael Wong and his research group describe an approach for making microcapsules that involves mixing a solution of polymer and salt with tiny particles of silica that contain just a few hundred atoms apiece.


Microcapsules are typically made by depositing layers of a coating onto a template or core, which has to be removed to form the hollow center of the structure. The core is usually burned out with high heat processes or dissolved with harsh chemicals. Both processes can damage both the microcapsules and their cargo.

"Our process takes place almost instantaneously, at room temperature, under normal pressure, in water, and at mild pH values," said Wong, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and chemistry. "The spheres naturally become hollow during the self-assembly, which is highly unusual and is an advantage over existing methods."

Wong’s approach has advantages over other microcapsule production methods that involve spraying techniques. While these techniques can be scaled up, it is difficult to adjust the materials properties of the resulting microcapsules.

"We’ve shown that we can tailor the properties of our self-assembled microcapsules - make them smaller, larger, thicker or thinner - simply by changing the ingredients we start with or by adjusting the mixing procedure," Wong said. "The underlying chemistry is so easy to perform that anyone who can pour, mix, and shake can make these microcapsules in less than a minute."

Wong’s process involves ’self-assembly,’ meaning the hollow spheres form spontaneously when the nanoparticle building blocks are mixed with polymer and salt. Because the process takes place in water, any chemical or drug that’s suspended in the water gets trapped inside the hollow sphere when it forms.

Besides encapsulating drugs, flavor compounds and other molecular cargo, Wong’s team hopes to develop their microcapsules for drug delivery. They are already exploring ways - like using changes in pH or temperature - to trigger the microcapsules to open and release drugs. In addition, they’ve made magnetic microcapsules by using iron oxide nanoparticles instead of silica. This could allow doctors to use magnets to precisely position drugs prior to their release.

"We can also use fluorescent nanoparticles called quantum dots to make glowing hollow spheres, which could be useful for combined drug delivery and imaging," Wong said.

Another potential application includes the delivery of medical imaging agents. For example, most contrast agents that doctors use to improve diagnoses from magnetic resonance imaging are highly toxic. If a small quantity can be sealed away in a microcapsule, safe from contact with any living cells, it could alleviate illness and side effects that patients experience today.

The microcapsules could also be used to encapsulate enzymes, complex biomolecules that that govern many cellular processes. Because enzymes are fragile and expensive, engineers would like to protect them during chemical reactions so they can be used many times over.

Wong’s group has shown they can do that to by storing enzymes inside the microcapsules. Their data show that enzymes didn’t leak through the walls of the microcapsules, but smaller molecules did, meaning the enzymes could still carry out their prime function and act as a catalyst for chemical reactions. Wong believes the technology could be used to make micro-bioreactors that could be used in large-scale chemical or drug production.

"In comparison with the other methods of making microcapsules, the scale-up for our process is simple and inexpensive," said Wong. "We believe this gives us a very competitive advantage over competing processes, and a number of companies have expressed an interest in the process."

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>