APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Emulsions for personal care products, flavors, and fragrances
- Membranes and devices for catalysis and energy storage
- Soft robotics
- Shape-shifting fluids
- Improved stability
- Cost-efficient fabrication
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, have developed bicontinuous jammed emulsions (bijels) with sub-micrometer domains by homogenization rather than spinodal decomposition. The improved stability of this technology could improve shelf life of personal care products, fragrances, and flavors, by substituting bijels for emulsions currently in use. The simplified fabrication could yield lower cost membranes and devices for catalysis and energy storage.
The LBNL / UMass Amherst advance is achieved by using nanoparticle surfactants – polymers and nanoparticles of complementary functionality that bind to one another at the oil-water interface. As a result, the bijel is stabilized far from the demixing point of the liquids, with interfacial tensions on the order of 20 mN/m. The solvent, nanoparticle, and ligand can vary, adding versatility to the approach. This platform technology is an essential step in formulating bijels for industrial applications such as multiphase microreactors, microfluidic devices, membrane contactors, and multiscale porous materials.
Bijels are tortuous, interconnected structures of two immiscible liquids, kinetically trapped by colloidal particles that are irreversibly bound to the oil-water interface. Large domain sizes (5 micrometers or larger) and difficulty in fabrication have posed barriers to using bijels for catalysis, energy storage, and molecular encapsulation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Huang, C., Forth, J., Wang, W., Hong, K., Smith, G., Helms, B., and Russell, T. “Bicontinuous structured liquids with sub-micrometre domains using nanoparticle surfactants,” Nature Nanotechnology, 12, 1060-1064, 2017.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle
REFERENCE NUMBER: 2018-024