Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny silicone spheres come out of the mist

07.05.2015

Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the University of Illinois.

Led by chemistry professor Kenneth Suslick, the researchers published their results in the journal Advanced Science.


Illinois chemists developed a method to make tiny silicone microspheres using misting technology found in household humidifiers. The spheres could have applications in targeted medicine and imaging.

Credit: Kenneth Suslick

Microspheres, tiny spheres as small as a red blood cell, have shown promise as agents for targeted drug delivery to tissues, as contrast agents for medical imaging, and in industrial applications.

One prime contender as a material for microspheres is silicone, the rubbery plastic found in everything from bathtub caulk to kitchenware to medical implants, but a method of making silicone into microspheres has eluded scientists.

Silicone owes its versatility to its unique combination of properties: It is biocompatible, heat resistant, chemically stable, waterproof and environmentally benign. Yet some of those same qualities have frustrated researchers attempting to make silicone microspheres.

The traditional microsphere-making method of suspending tiny droplets of material in another liquid does not work with silicone.

"For silicone, creating a stable emulsion of small droplets is very difficult," Suslick said. "Even if a stable emulsion is achieved, you run into even bigger problems when it is heated, which is necessary to polymerize into solid spheres. Upon heating, small droplets of silicone starting material will coalesce with other droplets and produce only bigger spheres."

The Illinois team uses a technique called ultrasonic spray pyrolysis, which employs technology found in household humidifiers to create a mist of ultrafine droplets. Suslick's group has pioneered the technique for a variety of materials, and teamed up with U. of I. chemistry professor Catherine Murphy to tackle the problem of silicone.

The researchers send a mist containing all the ingredients of silicone through a heated tube, which solidifies the mist into tiny spheres of silicone. Because the droplets are all separate within the mist, they don't stick together like they do in an emulsion, so the resulting microspheres are roughly 100 times smaller than any previously reported.

The researchers made silicone microspheres with a variety of properties for different applications, including colored, fluorescent and magnetic spheres. Because the spheres are bio-inert - they do not react with chemicals in the body - and the researchers believe they would be excellent vessels for extended-release pharmaceuticals. They are also exploring potential applications of solid, hollow and magnetic microspheres.

"The applications for silicone microspheres, to date, have been almost entirely speculative, simply because no one has been able to actually make them," said Jacqueline Rankin, the lead graduate student on this project. "With this new method, silicone microspheres can be easily and readily synthesized, facilitating the exploration of technologies that have only been speculated upon and creating novel technologies and new science in a number of scientific disciplines."

###

Graduate students Nitin Neelakantan, Elissa Grzincic and Kimberly Lundberg were co-authors of the paper. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, James R. Beck Fellowship, and the Robert C. and Carolyn J. Springborn Endowment.

Editor's note: To reach Ken Suslick, call 217-333-2794; email: ksuslick@illinois.edu.

The paper, "Magnetic, Fluorescent, and Copolymeric Silicone Microspheres," is available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/advs.201500114/full.

Media Contact

Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073

 @NewsAtIllinois

http://www.illinois.edu 

Liz Ahlberg | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>