Nucleation and crystallization controlled in confined environments

In connection with the recent development of technologies such as microfluidics, screening robots, or emulsion crystallization, we have developed a versatile and easy-to-use microfluidic platform for non-specialists to screen crystallization conditions, quickly establish phase diagrams and measure crystal nucleation kinetics (see video or read review paper).

We have discussed theoretically and experimentally the direct influence of volume on crystallization, effect considered only very rarely. The effect of confinement (reduced volume solution) on nucleation/growth is addressed through a simple and concise thermodynamic formulation. We can thus specify the range of droplet sizes in which confinement must be taken into account, as well as its potential effects, including: single nucleation event, access to high supersaturation impossible in bulk, explosive growth. An experiment was built for the controlled generation of microdroplets (volume from picoliters to femtoliters) for the study of confinement and its potential applications: nucleation control, screening, and polymorphism control (read the paper). For example, we use a sharp tip to induce a single nucleation event allowing spatial and temporal control (see video).

Microfluidic platform for crystallization studies

Microfluidics: Protein crystallization in a microdroplet

Generation of arrayed aqueous phase microdroplets in oil