Robust fabrication of ultra-soft tunable PDMS microcapsules as a biomimetic model for red blood cells

Qi Chen, Naval Singh, Kerstin Schirrmann, Qi Zhou, Igor Chernyavsky, Anne Juel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microcapsules with liquid cores encapsulated by thin membranes have many applications in science, medicine and industry. In this paper, we design a suspension of microcapsules which can flow and deform like red blood cells (RBCs), as a valuable tool to investigate microhaemodynamics. A reconfigurable and easy-to-assemble 3D nested glass capillary device is used to robustly fabricate water-oil-water double emulsions which are then converted into spherical microcapsules with hyperelastic membranes by cross-linking the polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) layer coating the droplets. The resulting capsules are monodisperse to within 1% and can be made in a wide range of size and membrane thickness. We use osmosis to deflate by 36% initially spherical capsules of diameter 350 μm and a membrane thickness of 4% of their radius. Hence, we can match the reduced volume of RBCs but not their biconcave shape, since our capsules adopt a buckled shape. We compare the propagation of initially spherical and deflated capsules under constant volumetric flow in cylindrical capillaries of different confinements. We find that only deflated capsules deform broadly similarly to RBCs over a similar range of capillary numbers Ca – the ratio of viscous to elastic forces. Similarly to the RBCs, the microcapsules transition from a symmetric ’parachute’ to an asymmetric ’slipper’-like shape as Ca increases within the physiological range, demonstrating intriguing confinement-dependent dynamics. In addition to biomimetic RBC properties, high-throughput fabrication of tunable ultra-soft microcapsules could be further functionalized and find applications in other areas of science and engineering.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoft Matter
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 May 2023


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