Non-Covalent Microgel Particles Containing Functional Payloads: Coacervation of PEG-Based Triblocks via Microfluidics

Wang, C. X., Utech, S., Gopez, J. D., Mabesoone, M. F. J., Hawker, C. J., Klinger, D.
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces
8 (26), pp 16914–16921

Well-defined microgel particles were prepared by combining coacervate-driven cross-linking of ionic triblock copolymers with the ability to control particle size and encapsulate functional cargos inherent in microfluidic devices. In this approach, the efficient assembly of PEO-based triblock copolymers with oppositely charged end-blocks allows for bioinspired cross-linking under mild conditions in dispersed aqueous droplets. This strategy enables the integration of charged cargos into the coacervate domains (e.g., the loading of anionic model compounds through electrostatic association with cationic end-blocks). Distinct release profiles can be realized by systematically varying the chemical nature of the payload and the microgel dimensions. This mild and noncovalent assembly method represents a promising new approach to tunable microgels as scaffolds for colloidal biomaterials in therapeutics and regenerative medicine.