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Crystals 2019, 9(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/cryst9010012

Continuous- versus Segmented-Flow Microfluidic Synthesis in Materials Science

1
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux (ICMCB), UMR 5026, F-33600 Pessac, France
2
University of Bordeaux, Institut de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Bordeaux (ICMCB), UMR 5026, F-33600 Pessac, France
3
Institute for Chemical & Bioengineering, Department of Chemistry & Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 November 2018 / Revised: 10 December 2018 / Accepted: 21 December 2018 / Published: 24 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microfluidic Platforms for Crystallography)
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Abstract

Materials science is a fast-evolving area that aims to uncover functional materials with ever more sophisticated properties and functions. For this to happen, new methodologies for materials synthesis, optimization, and preparation are desired. In this context, microfluidic technologies have emerged as a key enabling tool for a low-cost and fast prototyping of materials. Their ability to screen multiple reaction conditions rapidly with a small amount of reagent, together with their unique physico-chemical characteristics, have made microfluidic devices a cornerstone technology in this research field. Among the different microfluidic approaches to materials synthesis, the main contenders can be classified in two categories: continuous-flow and segmented-flow microfluidic devices. These two families of devices present very distinct characteristics, but they are often pooled together in general discussions about the field with seemingly little awareness of the major divide between them. In this perspective, we outline the parallel evolution of those two sub-fields by highlighting the key differences between both approaches, via a discussion of their main achievements. We show how continuous-flow microfluidic approaches, mimicking nature, provide very finely-tuned chemical gradients that yield highly-controlled reaction–diffusion (RD) areas, while segmented-flow microfluidic systems provide, on the contrary, very fast homogenization methods, and therefore well-defined super-saturation regimes inside arrays of micro-droplets that can be manipulated and controlled at the milliseconds scale. Those two classes of microfluidic reactors thus provide unique and complementary advantages over classical batch synthesis, with a drive towards the rational synthesis of out-of-equilibrium states for the former, and the preparation of high-quality and complex nanoparticles with narrow size distributions for the latter. View Full-Text
Keywords: continuous-flow microfluidics; reaction-diffusion; segmented-flow microfluidics; controlled mixing; crystallization; self-assembly; kinetic control; out-of-equilibrium; pathway selection; pathway complexity continuous-flow microfluidics; reaction-diffusion; segmented-flow microfluidics; controlled mixing; crystallization; self-assembly; kinetic control; out-of-equilibrium; pathway selection; pathway complexity
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Gonidec, M.; Puigmartí-Luis, J. Continuous- versus Segmented-Flow Microfluidic Synthesis in Materials Science. Crystals 2019, 9, 12.

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