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Microfluidic magnetic self-assembly at liquid-liquid interfaces

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journal contribution
posted on 23.06.2021, 16:22 by Steven G. Jones, Niki Abbasi, Byeong-Ui Moon, Scott S. H. Tsai
We present a microfluidic method that controllably self-assembles microparticles into clusters at an aqueous two-phase liquid-liquid interface. The liquid-liquid interface is formed between converging flows of aqueous dextran and polyethylene glycol, in a microfluidic cross-slot device. We control the size of the self-assembled particle clusters as they pass through the liquid-liquid interface, by systematically varying the applied magnetic field gradient, and the interfacial tension of the liquid-liquid interface. We find that upon penetration through the interface, the number of particles within a cluster increases with increasing interfacial tension, and decreasing magnetic field gradient. We also develop a scaling model of the number of particles within a cluster, and observe an inverse scaling of the number of particles within a cluster with the dimensionless magnetic Bond number. Upon cluster penetration across the liquid-liquid interface, we find magnetic Bond number regimes where the fluid coating drains away from the surface of the cluster, and where the clusters are encapsulated inside a thin film coating layer. This self-assembly technique may find application in controlling the size of microscale self-assemblies, and coating such assemblies; for example, in clustering and coating of cells for immunoisolated cell transplants.