, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 51-58

Self-folding micropatterned polymeric containers

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Abstract

We demonstrate self-folding of precisely patterned, optically transparent, all-polymeric containers and describe their utility in mammalian cell and microorganism encapsulation and culture. The polyhedral containers, with SU-8 faces and biodegradable polycaprolactone (PCL) hinges, spontaneously assembled on heating. Self-folding was driven by a minimization of surface area of the liquefying PCL hinges within lithographically patterned two-dimensional (2D) templates. The strategy allowed for the fabrication of containers with variable polyhedral shapes, sizes and precisely defined porosities in all three dimensions. We provide proof-of-concept for the use of these polymeric containers as encapsulants for beads, chemicals, mammalian cells and bacteria. We also compare accelerated hinge degradation rates in alkaline solutions of varying pH. These optically transparent containers resemble three-dimensional (3D) micro-Petri dishes and can be utilized to sustain, monitor and deliver living biological components.