Flower-like droplets obtained by self-emulsification of a phase-separating (SEPS) aqueous film

Youchuang Chao, Lap Tak Hung, Jie Feng, Hao Yuan, Yi Pan, Wei Guo, Yage Zhang, Ho Cheung Shum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-emulsification, referring to the spontaneous formation of droplets of one phase in another immiscible phase, is attracting growing interest because of its simplicity in creating droplets. Existing self-emulsification methods usually rely on phase inversion, temperature cycling, and solvent evaporation. However, achieving spatiotemporal control over the morphology of self-emulsified droplets remains challenging. In this work, a conceptually new approach of creating both simple and complex droplets by self-emulsification of a phase-separating (SEPS) aqueous film, is reported. The aqueous film is formed by depositing a surfactant-laden aqueous droplet onto an aqueous surface, and the fragmentation of the film into droplets is triggered by a wetting transition. Smaller and more uniform droplets can be achieved by introducing liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS). Moreover, properly modulating quadruple LLPS and film fragmentation enables the creation of highly multicellular droplets such as flower-like droplets stabilized by the interfacial self-assembly of nanoparticles. This work provides a novel strategy to design aqueous droplets by LLPS, and it will inspire a wide range of applications such as membraneless organelle synthesis, cell mimics and delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6050-6055
Number of pages6
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jul 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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