Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

Hyper alginate gel microbead formation by molecular diffusion at the hydrogel/droplet interface.

PMID 23234383


We report a simple method for forming monodispersed, uniformly shaped gel microbeads with precisely controlled sizes. The basis of our method is the placement of monodispersed sodium alginate droplets, formed by a microfluidic device, on an agarose slab gel containing a high-osmotic-pressure gelation agent (CaCl(2) aq.): (1) the droplets are cross-linked (gelated) due to the diffusion of the gelation agent from the agarose slab gel to the sodium alginate droplets and (2) the droplets simultaneously shrink to a fraction of their original size (<100 μm in diameter) due to the diffusion of water molecules from the sodium alginate droplets to the agarose slab gel. We verified the mass transfer mechanism between the droplet and the agarose slab gel. This method circumvents the limitations of gel microbead formation, such as the need to prepare microchannels of various sizes, microchannel clogging, and the deformation of the produced gel microbeads.