Spontaneous assembly of chemically encoded two-dimensional coacervate droplet arrays by acoustic wave patterning

Tian, L. Martin, N., Bassindale, P.G., Patil, A.J., Li, M., Barnes, A., Drinkwater, B.W. & Mann, S. (2016) Spontaneous assembly of chemically encoded two-dimensional coacervate droplet arrays by acoustic wave patterning. Nature Communications, 7, 13068. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13068



The spontaneous assembly of chemically encoded, molecularly crowded, water-rich micro-droplets into periodic defect-free two-dimensional arrays is achieved in aqueous media by a combination of an acoustic standing wave pressure field and in situ complex coacervation. Acoustically mediated coalescence of primary droplets generates single-droplet per node micro-arrays that exhibit variable surface-attachment properties, spontaneously uptake dyes, enzymes and particles, and display spatial and time-dependent fluorescence outputs when exposed to a reactant diffusion gradient. In addition, coacervate droplet arrays exhibiting dynamical behaviour and exchange of matter are prepared by inhibiting coalescence to produce acoustically trapped lattices of droplet clusters that display fast and reversible changes in shape and spatial configuration in direct response to modulations in the acoustic frequencies and fields. Our results offer a novel route to the design and construction of ‘water-in-water’ micro-droplet arrays with controllable spatial organization, programmable signalling pathways and higher order collective behaviour.

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