In this paper we describe a versatile microfluidic strategy for simultaneous preparation of quantum dot-encoded microbeads with controllable barcodes. This method involves the generation of multiple dispersed solutions carrying stepwise concentration gradients of quantum dots by using a pyramidal microfluidic network, the formation of corresponding droplets in parallel flow-focusing droplet generators, and on-chip solidification of these droplets into microbeads. Using a designed microfluidic device, we simultaneously generated five kinds of fluorescence-encoded alginate hydrogel microbeads with a five-level stepwise concentration gradient of monochromatic quantum dot or five controllable ratios of two different-sized quantum dots. This method has the following features: (1) the barcode adapter compartment substitutes the respective preparation of precursor solutions containing the correct concentrations and ratios of different quantum dots for corresponding barcodes. (2) Identical microbeads with distinct quantum dot barcodes can be simultaneously generated in homogeneous conditions. (3) The microfluidic device can be upgraded by increasing or decreasing the inlets and outlets of the pyramidal network and the number of the parallel flow-focusing droplet generators to meet the requirements for the particular barcodes. We expect that this microfluidic route will facilitate the construction and mass-production of robust and reproducible barcode materials. 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Ji, X.-H., N.-G. Zhang, W. Cheng, F. Guo, W. Liu, S.-S. Guo, Z.-K. He, X.-Z. Zhao
Journal of Materials Chemistry