journal article

Microfluidic templating and initiator-free photocrosslinking of protein-loaded PCL microcapsules


Polymer network materials are interesting alternatives to thermoplastic polymers. Here, the preparation of polymer capsules is investigated, which are made from poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) networks and are compartmentalized in a crosslinked PCL shell and a core that is suitable to enclose payloads of interest. Aided by microfluidic templating, PCL network capsules with a narrow size distribution (176 ± 5 µm) and thin shells (≈7.5 µm) are formed from 4-arm star-shaped 12 kDa PCL precursors by photoinitiator-free UV light-induced radical polymerization of methacrylate end-groups. FITC-BSA is encapsulated as a model protein. The physicochemical characterization of the capsules indicated a partial crosslinking of methacrylate endgroups into netpoints. Microscopy revealed a fraction of collapsed capsules that are discussed in the context of network stability and mechanical stress created at the capsule interfaces during solvent removal. The incubation of particles with human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells showed good cell compatibility, suggesting their potential use in biosciences and beyond.
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