Some of the world’s most important discoveries – penicillin, vulcanized rubber and Velcro, to name a few – were made by accident. In fact, it’s been said that upward of half of all scientific discoveries are by chance.

Add vortex ring freezing to that long list of “accidents.”

Duo An, a doctoral student in the labs of both professor Dan Luo and assistant professor Minglin Ma, in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, was an undergraduate from China doing an internship at Cornell when he stumbled upon a phenomenon that has the potential to greatly improve cell-free protein production and cell delivery, particularly for Type 1 diabetes patients.
A group headed by Luo and Ma has published the paper, “Mass production of shaped particles through vortex ring freezing,” which was released online Aug. 4 in Nature Communications. An is lead author.

Vortex rings are ubiquitous in nature – a mushroom cloud of smoke is one example – and the ring’s evolution exhibits a rich spectrum of complicated geometries, from spherical to teardrop to toroidal (doughnut-shaped). The researchers used these features to control and mass produce inorganic and organic particles via an electrospraying process, whereby a multitude of vortex ring-derived particles (VRPs) can be produced, then frozen at precise time points. The group reported they could produce 15,000 rings per minute via electrospraying.

They found controlling the shape and speed of the spray, as well as the speed of the chemical reaction, can yield different structures.

“We can tune both of these timescales, and control at which stage we can freeze the structure, to get the results we want,” An said.

 

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Image Credit: Cornell University

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