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Hourglass-Shaped Microfibers

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posted on 22.06.2020, 15:41 by Rui Shi, Ye Tian, Pingan Zhu, Xin Tang, Xiaowei Tian, Chunmei Zhou, Liqiu Wang
Heterotypic microfibers have been recognized as promising building blocks for the multifunctionality demanded in various fields, such as environmental and biomedical engineering. We present a novel microfluidics-based technique to generate bio-inspired microfibers with hourglass-shaped knots (named hourglass-shaped microfibers) via the integration of a non-solvent-induced phase separation (NIPS) process. The microfibers with spindle knots (named spindle-microfibers) are generated as templates at a large scale. The morphologies of spindle-microfibers can be precisely regulated by controlling the flow rates of the constituent fluids. After post-treatment of the partially gelled spindle-microfibers in ethanol, the encapsulated oil cores leak from knots, and the fibers morph into an hourglass shape. By controlling the oil core spillage and the template’s configurations, a variety of hourglass-shaped microfibers can be obtained with adjustable morphologies and densities ranging from those of cavity-microfibers to those of spindle-microfibers. The hourglass-shaped microfibers preponderate spindle-microfibers in terms of changeable weight, adjustable morphologies, high specific surface areas, and enhanced surface roughness. Their unique macroscale topographies and properties lead to enhanced dehumidification and water collection abilities. This NIPS-integrated microfluidic technique offers a promising and novel way to manufacture microfibers by design, tailoring their structures and properties to suit a desired application.