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One-Pot Synthesis of Elastomeric Monoliths Filled with Individually Encapsulated Liquid Droplets

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posted on 28.08.2012, 00:00 by Inna Gurevitch, Michael S. Silverstein
The ability to encapsulate and store liquids within discrete, micrometer-scale containers is essential for living organisms and is used by water-storage cells to keep plants healthy, even during a prolonged drought. This paper describes the one-pot synthesis of liquid droplet elastomers (LDEs), a novel materials system with advantageous properties. LDEs are tissue-like elastomeric monoliths that contain around 85% water in the form of individually encapsulated micrometer-scale droplets. The LDE structure is templated within high internal phase Pickering emulsions, emulsions stabilized by nanoparticles that also function as cross-linking centers. The polyhedral shapes of the droplets, which accommodate the high volume fraction of water, are “locked-in” to the LDE during polymerization. The water retention in these unique materials is exceedingly high, and as seen for living systems, the presence of the encapsulated water droplets enhances the resistance to compressive deformation and to ignition upon direct exposure to a flame.