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Microcapsules like it hot and salty

ule wall, which means that they can predict the diameter of the hollow spheres under any given circumstances without an experiment. The model they have developed contains the competition between two forces: the polymer/water surface tension, which attempts to make the capsule and its surface smaller on the one hand, and the electrostatic repelling force between like charges in the polymer shell which makes the capsule swell on the other. "Depending on the strength of the two competitors, the exact size of the capsule can be calculated in advance for a very specific salt concentration and temperature," explained Maarten Biesheuvel, another member of the team of researchers.

The theoretical model also predicts that it should be possible, by way of skilful adjustment of the conditions, to shrink initially swollen capsules and vice versa. This prediction was also confirmed in experiments.

This continuous switching between the two states of quite different capsule sizes expands the range of possible uses for the Potsdam microcapsules enormously. As well as being used as medicine transporters, conceivable applications include using the capsules as a component of car paint which releases a corrosion protection agent when damaged, thereby stopping the damaged section from becoming larger. As microsensors they could supply information about the concentration of certain molecules, such as glucose or calcium ions in cells or also work as micropumps.


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Source:Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


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