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Deformable and Robust Core–Shell Protein Microcapsules Templated by Liquid–Liquid Phase‐Separated Microdroplets

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Abstract: Microcapsules are a key class of microscale materials with applications in areas ranging from personal care to biomedicine, and with increasing potential to act as extracellular matrix (ECM) models of hollow organs, tissues, or biomolecular condensates. Such capsules are conventionally generated from non‐ECM materials including synthetic polymers. Here, robust microcapsules with controllable shell thickness from physically‐ and enzymatically‐crosslinked gelatin are fabricated, and a core–shell architecture is achieved by exploiting a liquid–liquid phase‐separated aqueous system in a one‐step microfluidic process. Microfluidic mechanical testing reveals that the mechanical robustness of thicker‐shell capsules could be controlled through modulation of the shell thickness. Furthermore, the microcapsules demonstrate environmentally‐responsive deformation, including buckling driven by osmosis and external mechanical forces. A sequential release of cargo species is obtained through the degradation of the capsules. Stability measurements show the capsules are stable at 37 °C for more than 2 weeks. Finally, through gel–sol transition, microgels function as precursors for the formation of all‐aqueous liquid–liquid phase‐separated systems that are two‐phase or multiphase. These smart capsules that can undergo phase transition are promising models of hollow biostructures, microscale drug carriers, and building blocks or compartments for active soft materials and robots.



Research Article, Research Articles, all‐aqueous emulsions, buckling, core–shell microgels, extracellular matrix, Janus microgels, liquid–liquid phase separation, protein microgels

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Advanced Materials Interfaces

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