The team of researchers of IIT Guwahati (from left to right) Uttam Manna, Saurav Kumar, Priyam Mondal, Nishanta Barman and Karan Jain

A team of researchers at IIT Guwahati designed a non-sticking, non-wetting liquid marble that floats in water and releases its contents in a pre-programmed time.

The research has been published in the prestigious journal: Advanced Functional Materials. Researchers at the IIT Guwahati have developed liquid marbles using nano clay that can be pre-programmed for drug delivery and cascade chemical reactions, said one of the researchers.

“Conventionally for treating any disease, we take medicines in the form of tablets, capsules, syrups and ointments among others. A controlled drug delivery system is a more efficient technique to deliver the required dose at the specific site gradually over the desired period of time. Loading and release of the drug in its soluble form is another important aspect – which can be achieved with this liquid marble”, the researchers said.

A research team led by Uttam Manna, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Centre for Nanotechnology, IIT Guwahati has used the liquid marbles approach for the controlled release of drugs and programmed chemical reactions.

The researchers further added: “Unlike normal droplets, a liquid marble is a non-sticking, non-wetting droplet. It is created by wrapping a droplet with fine hydrophobic particles i.e., water-repelling particles. When put in a water pool, liquid marbles can be rolled, squeezed, and even float without spilling. In nature gall-forming aphids create liquid marbles by coating the honeydew they secrete in a powdery wax.”

“Liquid marbles are soft spherical solids that can be used for multiple applications by replacing the liquid inside them. Some examples are in the field of sensor platforms, soft robotics, healing agents and biosystems and others,” the researchers said.

Explaining the research challenge Manna said: “Release of drugs from a liquid marble in response to a stimulus for instance light, temperature, electricity has been reported earlier. But the time-programmed release was not yet achieved. We have chemically modified the lifetime of a floating liquid marble on a water pool.”

“The nano clay marbles were made of a shell of nano clay that holds the liquid. To programme the marbles for timed release of the content, the researchers modified the nano clay with chemical groups that were either water-loving (hydrophilic) or water-hating (hydrophobic),” Manna added.

Manna further added: “A water droplet was laid on a powder bed consisting of hydrophilic and hydrophobic nano clay powders. The properties and stability of the liquid marbles changed according to the relative amounts of the water-hating and water-loving groups on the nano clay surface.”

The details on the formation of the NC liquid marbles and their programmed drug release application have been published in Advanced Functional Materials, Manna said.

The paper has been co-authored by Nishanta Barman, Arpita Shome, Saurav Kumar, Priyam Mondal, Karan Jain, Mizuki Tenjimbayashi and Uttam Manna.

This project was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Department of Biotechnology.

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