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Polymerization of Electric Field-Centered Double Emulsion Droplets to Create Polyacrylate Shells

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posted on 21.12.2010 by Alexander K. Tucker-Schwartz, Zongmin Bei, Robin L. Garrell, Thomas B. Jones
Porous and hollow particles are widely used in pharmaceuticals, as solid phases for chromatography, as catalyst supports, in bioanalytical assays and medical diagnostics, and in many other applications. By controlling size, shape, and chemistry, it is possible to tune the physical and chemical properties of the particles. In some applications of millimeter-scale hollow shells, such as in high energy density physics, controlling the shell thickness uniformity (concentricity) and roundness (sphericity) becomes particularly important. In this work, we demonstrate the feasibility of using electric field-driven droplet centering to form highly spherical and concentric polymerizable double emulsion (DE) droplets that can be subsequently photopolymerized into polymer shells. Specifically, when placed under the influence of an ∼6 × 104 Vrms/m field at 20 MHz, DE droplets, consisting of silicone oil as the inner droplet and tripropylene glycol diacrylate with a photoinitiator in N,N-dimethylacetamide as the outer droplet, suspended in ambient silicone oil, were found to undergo electric field-driven centering into droplets with ≥98% sphericity and ∼98% concentricity. The centered DE droplets were photopolymerized in the presence of the electric field. The high degrees of sphericity and concentricity were maintained in the polymerized particles. The poly(propylene glycol diacrylate) capsules are just within the sphericity requirements needed for inertial confinement fusion experiments. They were slightly outside the concentricity requirement. These results suggest that electric field-driven centering and polymerization of double emulsions could be very useful for synthesizing hollow polymer particles for applications in high energy density physics experiments and other applications of concentric polymer shells.

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