Microfluidic droplet reactors have many potential uses, from analytical to synthesis. Stable operation requires preferential wetting of the channel surface by the continuous phase which is often not fulfilled by materials commonly used for lab-on-chip devices.
Here we show that a silica nanoparticle (SiNP) layer coated onto a Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and other thermoplastics surface enhances its wetting properties by creating nanoroughness, and allows simple grafting of hydrocarbon chains through silane chemistry. Using the unusual stability of silica sols at their isoelectric point, a dense SiNP layer is adsorbed onto PMMA and renders the surface superhydrophilic.
Subsequently, a self-assembled dodecyltrichlorosilane (DTS) monolayer yields a superhydrophobic surface that allows the repeatable generation of aqueous droplets in a hexadecane continuous phase without surfactant addition.
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