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New Way to Wrap Liquid Drops May Improve Drug Delivery

Researchers have developed a faster and cheaper way to coat liquid medicines, an invention that could improve the way medicines are administered in the body.

The new encapsulation technology, developed by engineers at the University of Waterloo, uses gravity and other natural forces to wrap drops as they fall through a thin layer of liquid shell floating over a base liquid.

Once hardened or cured by exposure to ultraviolet light, the shell houses and protects the liquid core within.

"It's a very simple technique that requires almost no power – and it's extremely fast," said Sushanta Mitra, executive director of the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology. "Encapsulation occurs in milliseconds."

PhD student Sirshendu Misra.

PhD student Sirshendu Misra, Leading Researcher in Development

of new encapsulation technology working at Micro Nano-Scale

Transport Laboratory, University of Waterloo. Photo: Brian Caldwell

When the liquid core is needed – after reaching a specific area of ​​the body for targeted drug delivery, for example – the shell is designed to dissolve and release its contents.

Mitra said the simplicity of the system allows for much more cost-effective capsule production than current methods, which include machines involving thin gel droplets and complex microfluidic processes.

"We anticipate a very simple, fast, syringe-based mass production system," said Mitra, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering and appointed in chemical engineering, physics and astronomy. "With a one-shot approach, you can produce thousands of these encapsulations."

Other technology advantages include the ability to coat multi-layered droplets, greater flexibility in drop volume and shell materials, and the production of stronger and more stable capsules.

In addition to targeted delivery of pharmaceuticals and vitamins, potential uses of the liquid-liquid packaging method include producing tiny capsules to add flavors to cola drinks as they are consumed and extending the life of collagen-containing cosmetic creams.

Mitra oversaw the research involving engineering students Sirshendu Misra and Kumari Trinavee and postdoctoral fellow Naga Siva Kumar Gunda.

An article on their work, Encapsulation with a Liquid Interfacial Layer: Robust and Efficient Liquid-Liquid Enclosure, appears in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.

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