Scientists in California are reporting development of a new generation of the microcapsules used in carbon-free copy paper, in which capsules burst and release ink with pressure from a pen. The new microcapsules burst when exposed to light, releasing their contents in ways that could have wide-ranging commercial uses from home and personal care to medicine. Their study appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
Jean Fréchet, Alex Zettl and colleagues note that liquid-filled microcapsules have many other uses, including self-healing plastics. Those plastics contain one group of microscapsules filled with monomer and another with a catalyst. When scratches rip open the capsules, the contents flow, mix, and form a seal. Microcapsules that burst open when exposed to light would have great advantages, the scientists say. Light could be focused to a pinpoint to kill cancer cells, for instance, or shined over an large area to print a pattern.
The new microcapsules consist of nylon spheres about the size of a grain of sand. They enclose a liquid chemical sprinkled with carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes convert laser light to heat that bursts the nylon capsule, releasing the chemical. Using such a system, doctors, for example, might inject microcapsules containing anti-cancer drugs to specific cells and make the capsules burst upon exposure to laser light, delivering their contents precisely where and when they are needed in the body.
ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE "Chemicals On Demand with Phototriggerable Microcapsules"