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Polymer Microcapsules with Programmable Active Release

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posted on 22.05.2013, 00:00 by Alireza Abbaspourrad, Nick J. Carroll, Shin-Hyun Kim, David A. Weitz
We present a new type of microcapsule programmed with a tunable active release mechanism. The capsules are triggered by a plasticizing stimulus that induces a phase change transition of the polymeric membrane from a solid to a fluidized form; thereafter, the cargo is actively driven out of the capsule through a defect at the capsule wall with controllable release kinetics. Tuning the degree of membrane fluidity by tailoring the amount of plasticizing stimulus present allows us to obtain temporal variation of the release kinetics from a subsecond abrupt burst release to a slow sustained release of encapsulant over many minutes. Moreover, we demonstrate tuning of the collective capsule triggering response by adjusting stimulus content, polymer molecular weight, and capsule membrane thickness. For this model system, we use a microfluidic approach to fabricate polystyrene capsules triggered by a toluene stimulus. However, this active release approach is general and is applicable to diverse polymeric capsule systems; this versatility is demonstrated by extension of our trigger-release scheme to capsules fabricated from a rubberlike block copolymer. The utility of our technique further enhances the potential of these active release capsules for practical application.