Researchers from MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories have developed a new microencapsulation technique. Microencapsulation, where “a spherical particle with the size varying between 50 nm to 2 mm containing a core substance,” is used in pharmaceuticals to deliver drugs and medicine into the body. Microcapsules can be made from a variety of materials, like gelatin, but require particles of a uniform size. Researchers at MIT have reported that their new technique ensures uniformity.
Because the devices used to make these particles were 3D printed, the process for making the particles is cost-effective. This allows for many iterations. For more specific applications that may be too expensive to make, 3D printing can bring the price down significantly. This contributes to how researchers quickly developed the microcapsule. Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, one of the authors, says they were able to make “three different generations [of microsystems] that are significantly different from one another” in just one year. Researchers used monolithic arrays of emitters and used electric fields to draw fluids through channels. They used helical fluid channels for the smallest possible volume of the 3D printed capsules.
This new technology enables very small, complex devices that traditional microfabrication processes wouldn’t be able to create. The most common application of microcapsules can protect drugs from degradation. Now, researchers are expanding what uses microcapsules can be made of, like self-healing materials.
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