, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 855-862
Date: 20 Jun 2007

Generation of monodisperse alginate microbeads and in situ encapsulation of cell in microfluidic device

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Abstract

A microfluidic method for the in situ production of monodispersed alginate hydrogels using chaotic mixing is described. Aqueous droplets comprising of alginate and calcium as a cross-linking agent were formed as an immiscible continuous phase, and then the alginate and calcium in the droplet came into contact and were rapidly mixed. Gelation of the hydrogel was achieved in situ by the chaotic mixing of the droplets in the microfluidic device. Important operating parameters included: the capillary number (Ca) and the flow rate of the continuous phase, which mainly influenced the formation of three distinctive flow regimes, such as fluctuation, stable droplets, and laminar flow. Under the stable formation of droplets regime, monodispersed alginate microbeads having a narrow size distribution (below 3% of CV) were produced in the microfluidic device and the size of the microbeads, ranging from 60 to 95 μm, could be easily modulated by varying the flow rate, viscosity, and interfacial tension. In addition, this approach can be applied to the encapsulation of yeast cells in alginate hydrogels with a high monodispersity. This simple microfluidic technique for the production of monodispersed hydrogels and encapsulation of biomolecules shows strong potential for use in biosensors, cell sensors, drug delivery systems, and cell transplantation applications.