Creating Liquid Marbles Using Microfluidics

Biomimetics, the ability to imitate nature, gives scientists a blueprint for creating intricate micro- and nanoscale structures that mimic the beneficial properties of the plant or animal being mimicked. Researchers were able to make lens arrays from “liquid marbles” that have the same wide field of view, nearly infinite depth of field, peripheral vision without aberration, and even anti-fogging properties as the compound eyes of mosquitoes using microfluidics, nanoparticles, and patterned surfaces in a repeatable and scalable process.

They found that, in contrast to many other compound eyes that are made up of lenslet arrays on concave or convex surfaces that fan out like a flower or are produced through nanoparticle assembly, the individual lenslets on the mosquito eyes had their nanoscale structures that made it possible for them to have water-repellent properties.

The procedure imitates this structure, starting with silicon nanoparticles mixed in a microfluidically distributed UV-curable oil droplet or microlens. Without complicated microfabrication or direct-write techniques, the refractive-index-matched nanoparticles self-assemble on the droplet surface through capillary action and create a nanoparticle-covered “liquid marble.” After being UV-cured, these marbles are rolled into convex or concave nanopatterned, oil-filled templates and once more cured as a structure. It produces compound lenses with focal lengths ranging from 325 to 650 m with a 149o field of vision and almost infinite depth of field.

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