A fluidic device for the controlled formation and real-time monitoring of soft membranes self-assembled at liquid interfaces
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Membrane materials formed at the interface between two liquids have found applications in a large variety of technologies, from sensors to drug-delivery and catalysis. However, studying the formation of these membranes in real-time presents considerable challenges, owing to the difficulty of prescribing the location and instant of formation of the membrane, the difficulty of observing time-dependent membrane shape and thickness, and the poor reproducibility of results obtained using conventional mixing procedures. Here we report a fluidic device that facilitates characterisation of the time-dependent thickness, morphology and mass transport properties of materials self-assembled at fluid-fluid interfaces. In the proposed device the membrane forms from the controlled coalescence of two liquid menisci in a linear open channel. The linear geometry and controlled mixing of the solutions facilitate real-time visualisation, manipulation and improve reproducibility. Because of its small dimensions, the device can be used in conjunction with standard microscopy methods and reduces the required volumes of potentially expensive reagents. As an example application to tissue engineering, we use the device to characterise interfacial membranes formed by supra-molecular self-assembly of peptide-amphiphiles with either an elastin-like-protein or hyaluronic acid. The device can be adapted to study self-assembling membranes for applications that extend beyond bioengineering.
- College Publications