Functional droplets that recognize, collect, and transport debris on surfaces

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Science Advances  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 10, e1601462
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601462


We describe polymer-stabilized droplets capable of recognizing and picking up nanoparticles from substrates in experiments designed for transporting hydroxyapatite nanoparticles that represent the principal elemental composition of bone. Our experiments, which are inspired by cells that carry out materials transport in vivo, used oil-in-water droplets that traverse a nanoparticle-coated substrate driven by an imposed fluid flow. Nanoparticle capture is realized by interaction of the particles with chemical functionality embedded within the polymeric stabilizing layer on the droplets. Nanoparticle uptake efficiency is controlled by solution conditions and the extent of functionality available for contact with the nanoparticles. Moreover, in an elementary demonstration of nanoparticle transportation, particles retrieved initially from the substrate were later deposited “downstream,” illustrating a pickup and drop-off technique that represents a first step toward mimicking point-to-point transportation events conducted in living systems.

  • Hydroxyapatite
  • emulsion droplet
  • catechol
  • phosphorylcholine
  • polydopamine

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