Producing polymer particles: An alternative approach to traditional batch methods

Microfluidics is an ideal tool for applications such as encapsulation of reagents, or other ingredients, when compared with traditional batch methods, due to the ability to produce precisely controlled, monodisperse particles. Here we’ll talk about the benefits of a microfluidic approach in producing monodisperse micro- and nanoparticles in a reproducible and scalable way.

Poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), or PLGA, is a polymer that has broad use as a means for drug delivery and forms the basis of several therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), owing to its biodegradability and biocompatibility. There is a need for highly monodisperse particles, for applications such as controlled drug release and targeted drug delivery, to effectively encapsulate an API while minimising wastage.

Conventional, emulsion-based methods of manufacturing PLGA particles produce beads with a wide range of diameters (and properties) in each batch. There is limited degree of size selection by controlling the energy input leading to the need for particle selection and, therefore, an increase in wastage. However, a microfluidic approach, such as Dolomite’s, yield highly monodisperse particles, increasing overall yield, and significantly reducing the loss of API.

Producing microparticles

Polymer microparticles, such as PLGA, are produced using the droplet method and have a wide range of use for drug delivery and controlled release. In these applications, there’s a need for precise control and the ability to tune particle size as it affects targeting within the body, as well as degradation, and, consequently, the rate of drug release. Compared to traditional methods, a microfluidic approach will give you precision over distribution and size, yield is increased and there’s no need for a selection process, so you can validate your approach (and scale up) quickly.

This approach in producing microparticles (10 – 45μm) relies on the dissolution of the polymer in a solvent followed by emulsification using a droplet microfluidic chip. The application note, Continuous Synthesis of Monodisperse PLGA Particles using Droplets explains the method in more detail and demonstrates how you can benefit from this approach.

Producing nanoparticles

High throughput methods of PLGA particle production are increasing in interest in the pharmaceutical industry due to the development of applications for targeted and controlled drug delivery.  Because of the dispersity and lack of control over particle size using conventional methods, people are turning to microfluidics as an approach particularly as control is retained as scientists scale-up production; because results are reliably reproducible, approach can be validated quickly and simply ahead of scaling up.

PLGA nanoparticles (50nm – 30µm) are synthesized using a precipitation method and use continuous flow techniques to provide a simple, scalable method for high quality production of PLGA nanoparticles. Continuous Microfluidic Synthesis of PLGA Nanoparticles by Hydrodynamic Flow Focusing shows how to produce PLGA particles for drug encapsulation.


Continuous synthesis of PLGA particles in a microfluidic chip. (25% playback speed)


So, why microfluidics for producing PLGA particles for drug encapsulation applications

Conventional methods of creating PLGA particles typically result in a variable size distribution which is not ideal in pharmaceutical applications. Using a microfluidics approach, you will achieve:

  • Control over each of stage/variable in the process of particle production
  • Highly monodisperse and uniform particles
  • Greater particle yields with no need for a selection process
  • No wastage or loss of API
  • Reliable and reproducible results that are scalable

All this combined means scientists get on with producing more science, further progressing their application. To understand if a microfluidics approach is suitable for your application, Dolomite has expertise on hand to talk about your needs and help validate the approach in your context.

Find out more about generating PLGA particles for drug encapsulation.