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.
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