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Structured spheres generated by an in-fibre fluid instability

An Erratum to this article was published on 15 August 2012


From drug delivery1,2 to chemical and biological catalysis3 and cosmetics4, the need for efficient fabrication pathways for particles over a wide range of sizes, from a variety of materials, and in many different structures has been well established5. Here we harness the inherent scalability of fibre production6 and an in-fibre Plateau–Rayleigh capillary instability7 for the fabrication of uniformly sized, structured spherical particles spanning an exceptionally wide range of sizes: from 2 mm down to 20 nm. Thermal processing of a multimaterial fibre8 controllably induces the instability9, resulting in a well-ordered, oriented emulsion10 in three dimensions. The fibre core and cladding correspond to the dispersed and continuous phases, respectively, and are both frozen in situ on cooling, after which the particles are released when needed. By arranging a variety of structures and materials in a macroscopic scaled-up model of the fibre, we produce composite, structured, spherical particles, such as core–shell particles, two-compartment ‘Janus’ particles11, and multi-sectioned ‘beach ball’ particles. Moreover, producing fibres with a high density of cores allows for an unprecedented level of parallelization. In principle, 108 50-nm cores may be embedded in metres-long, 1-mm-diameter fibre, which can be induced to break up simultaneously throughout its length, into uniformly sized, structured spheres.

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Figure 1: Fluid capillary instabilities in multimaterial fibres as a route to size-tunable particle fabrication.
Figure 2: Scalable fabrication of micro- and nano-scale spherical particles.
Figure 3: Polymer-core/glass-shell spherical particle fabrication.
Figure 4: Broken-symmetry Janus particle and ‘beach ball’ particle fabrication.


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Work at UCF was supported by the US National Science Foundation (award number ECCS-1002295), a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), in part by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) under contract FA-9550-12-1-0148, and by CREOL, The College of Optics & Photonics. Work at MIT was supported in part by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Program of the US NSF under award number DMR-0819762, and also in part by the US Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies under contract number W911NF-07-D-0004. We thank Sasha Stolyarov, J. Manuel Perez, Sudipta Seal and Kirk Scammon for assistance. We especially thank M. J. Soileau, B. E. A. Saleh, D. N. Christodoulides and M. Z. Bazant for encouragement and support.

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Authors and Affiliations



J.J.K., Y.F. and A.F.A. developed and directed the project. S.S. first observed the PRI phenomenon, developed the fibre tapering process and the particle extraction approach, and demonstrated the scale invariance of the PRI and particle extraction strategies. G.T. prepared and characterized all the glasses, carried out the preform extrusions, and produced the ‘beach ball’ fibre. J.J.K. produced the other preforms and fibres, performed PRI breakup and particle extraction experiments, and carried out the SEM, EDX, FIB and optical imaging and characterization. E.-H.B. aided in choice and characterization of materials and in preparation of the polymers. D.S.D., X.L. and S.G.J. carried out the theoretical calculations and performed the simulations. J.J.K., D.S.D., Y.F. and A.F.A. wrote the paper. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the results.

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Correspondence to Ayman F. Abouraddy.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figures 1-10, legend for Supplementary Movie 1 and additional references. (PDF 1065 kb)

Supplementary Movie 1

This file contains a movie showing computed core-shell particle breakup dynamics (see Supplementary Information file for full legend). (MP4 1760 kb)

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Kaufman, J., Tao, G., Shabahang, S. et al. Structured spheres generated by an in-fibre fluid instability. Nature 487, 463–467 (2012).

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