Design of a droplet-based microfluidic system for hybrid polymer nanoparticle synthesis
Droplet microfluidics is advantageous in synthesizing microparticles for both confining their size to the physical dimensions of the droplet and providing a monodisperse result due to rapid mixing inside the droplets. Thusly named microreactors became the focus of the microfluidics community in the recent decade due to their superior ability to control the reaction environment. In this study, for the application of microreactors, a hybrid organic-inorganic material that became prominent in last years named polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) is chosen. POSS is a polymer that, beside its hybrid nature, shows heat resistance property which made its use in protective painting applications and high radical group affinity that can be utilized to further configure its material properties. This study proposes two microreaction systems for monomer POSS with ther-mal and photopolymerization methods that aim to increase monodispersity and solve the clogging problem encountered in previous studies by introducing the oil phase in the system. Feasibility of systems was investigated numerically using COMSOL Multiphysics and analyses showed adequate heating of and mixing in microreactors. A robust post-processing procedure is proposed to remove excess oil from the sample. Measurements showed microdroplet and sub-micron particle generation where the size distribution of these particles are quantified using MATLAB. Though the use of oil in the system proved to be another challange, hexane based substitute materials are proposed for future work.