CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--MIT engineers have used ultraviolet light to sculpt three-dimensional microparticles that could have many applications in medical diagnostics and tissue engineering. For example, they could be designed to act as probes to detect certain molecules, such as DNA, or to release drugs or nutrients.
The new technique offers unprecedented control over the size, shape and texture of the particles. It also allows researchers to design particles with specific chemical properties, such as porosity (a measure of the void space in a material that can affect how fast different molecules can diffuse through the particles).
With this method, you can rationally design particles, and precisely place chemical properties, said Patrick Doyle, associate professor of chemical engineering. Doyle is one of the authors of a paper on the work that will appear in the Dec. 3 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie, published by the German Chemical Society.
The research team started with a method that Doyle and his students reported in a 2006 issue of Nature Materials to create two-dimensional particles. Called continuous flow lithography, this approach allows shapes to be imprinted onto flowing streams of liquid polymers. Wherever pulses of ultraviolet light strike the flowing stream of small monomeric building blocks, a reaction is set off that forms a solid polymeric particle. They have now modified that method to add three-dimensionality.
This process can create particles very rapidly: Speeds range from 1,000 to 10,000 particles per second, depending on the size and shape of the particles. The particles range in size from about a millionth of a meter to a millimeter.
The team's new process works by shining ultraviolet light through two transparency masks, which define and focus the light before it reaches the flowing monomers. The first mask, which controls the size and shape of the particles, is part of the technique report
|Contact: Elizabeth Thomson|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology