Journal of the American Chemical Society

Optofluidic encapsulation of crystalline colloidal arrays into spherical membrane.

PMID 18393502


Double emulsion droplets encapsulating crystalline colloidal arrays (CCAs) with a narrow size distribution were produced using an optofluidic device. The shell phase of the double emulsion was a photocurable resin that was photopolymerized downstream of the fluidic channel within 1 s after drop generation. The present optofluidic synthesis scheme was very effective for fabricating highly monodisperse spherical CCAs that were made structurally stable by in situ photopolymerization of the encapsulating shells. The shell thickness and the number of core emulsion drops could be controlled by varying the flow rates of the three coflowing streams in the dripping regime. The spherical CCAs confined in the shell exhibited distinct diffraction patterns in the visible range, in contrast to conventional film-type CCAs. As a result of their structure, the spherical CCAs exhibited photonic band gaps for normal incident light independent of the position on the spherical surface. This property was induced by heterogeneous nucleation at the smooth wall of the spherical emulsion drop during crystallization into a face-centered cubic (fcc) structure. On the other hand, the solidified shells did not permit the penetration of ionic species, enabling the CCAs to maintain their structure in a continuous aqueous phase of high ionic strength for at least 1 month. In addition, the evaporation of water molecules inside the shell was slowed considerably when the core-shell microparticles were exposed to air: It took approximately 6 h for a suspension encapsulated in a thick shell to evaporate completely, which is approximately 1000 times longer than the evaporation time for water droplets with the same volume. Finally, the spherical CCAs additionally exhibited enhanced stability against external electric fields. The spherical geometry and high dielectric constant of the suspension contributed to reducing the electric field inside the shell, thereby inhibiting the electrophoretic movement of the charged particles.

Related Materials