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High-Throughput and Controllable Fabrication of Helical Microfibers by Hydrodynamically Focusing Flow

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posted on 01.12.2021, 20:05 by Wenjun Ma, Dong Liu, Sida Ling, Jingwei Zhang, Zhuo Chen, Yuan Lu, Jianhong Xu
Due to the unique spiral geometry, different functional helical fibers are fabricated to perform vital tasks, including cargo transportation, medical treatment, cell manipulation, and so on. Although microfluidic techniques are widely used to fabricate helical fibers, the problems of channel blockage and spinning instability have not been well solved, which limits the mass preparation and practical application of spiral microfibers. In addition, the spinning mechanism is simply limited to liquid rope coiling, which has little impact on the design of microfluidic devices. Here, new types of microfluidic devices, which were easy to make and exhibited excellent spiral spinning performance, were designed. It was found that adding a sleeve layer outside the inner core needle in a coaxial microfluidic device could effectively promote the stable formation of helical microfibers. This novel microchannel could fabricate helical microfibers of more than 100 m in length continuously at one time with almost no blockage or deformation, and the key parameters of the fibers could be precisely adjusted. Combined with micro-particle image velocimetry (micro-PIV) measurements, it was confirmed that the improvement in the spinning performances was mainly attributed to the emergence of a focusing flow in the presence of the sleeve layer. After loading magnetic nanoparticles, the helical microfibers exhibited excellent motion manipulation capabilities, which showed great potential for drug delivery, cargo transportation, clogging removal, etc. This new design not only realized the high-throughput fabrication of helical microfibers but also provided deeper insights into the underlying mechanisms of spiral generation and new ideas for the design of microfluidic devices.