Everything about Microspheres
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  • Suspension of Hydrophobic Particles in Aqueous Solution – Density Gradients

    Fluid Flow Visualization using Microspheres, Spherical Particles

    Fluorescent polyethylene microspheres for flow visualization in aqueous systems. Suspension of beads in aqueous solutions.

    Background Information

    Many materials are hydrophobic (water-fearing) in nature. Due to their non-polar chemical structure, hydrophobic particles want to minimize contact with polar (water) molecules and, as a result, tend to aggregate on the surface of the water and resist going into suspension. This presents a challenge to scientists and engineers who would like to be able to work with hydrophobic particles suspended in aqueous solution.

    Examples of the applications are using fluorescent polyethylene microspheres for flow visualization in aqueous systems, creating density gradients, filtration and contamination control studies.

    Fortunately, there is a simple way to overcome the hydrophobic effect. It is called a surfactant, a detergent, or simply “soap.” Surfactant is a magical molecule that has both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties, which coats the particles and helps them mix into water. The same mechanism applies when we use soap to wash greasy dishes or stained clothes.

    Selection of the surfactant depends purely on your process and product requirements. Dishwashing liquid works great, so does Simple Green. For scientists working on biological applications we recommend the use of Tween surfactants. Tween is the commercial name for Polysorbate non-ionic surfactants, which are stable, nontoxic, and often used in pharmacological, cosmetic, and food applications. Non-ionic detergents are considered to be “mild” detergents because they are less likely than ionic detergents to denature proteins. By not separating protein-protein bonds, non-ionic detergents allow the protein to retain its native structure and functionality.

    Tween 20 and Tween 80 are frequently used. Both surfactants are yellowish, water-soluble viscous liquids. Primary difference between the two is viscosity. Tween 20 has lower viscosity and is easier to work with.

    Suspension Process

    There are many ways to suspend the particles (e.g. put a few drops of dish detergent into water and shake with the particles).

    The process below is specific for using the minimum amount of Tween for biologically sensitive applications.


    • Gloves and eye protection are to be worn at all times during solution preparation and use.
    • Care should be taken when handling hot objects/liquids and immersion blender.
    • Centrifuge should be properly balanced and allowed to come to a full stop before opening.


    • We recommend using distilled water to minimize impurities.
    • We recommend boiling the water to sterilize and to make it easier to disperse a small amount of surfactant uniformly. This also increases shelf-life of prepared solutions and suspensions.
    • We use an immersion blender to disperse the surfactant in water quickly and effectively.


    Preparing Tween Solution:
    • Fill a heatproof container with distilled water.
    • Ensure the water level is high enough to cover the immersion blender.
    • Heat water to boiling and leave boiling for 5 minutes.
    • Weigh out 0.1g of Tween per 100ml of water used (creating 0.1% solution).
    • Slowly add Tween to boiled water while mixing with immersion mixer (~30 seconds).
    • Some bubbles will form during mixing.
    • Bubbles will dissipate on cooling and solution will appear clear.
    Suspending particles in Tween solution.
    • Place the desired amount of particles into a container.
    • Dispense prepared Tween solution on top of particles.
    • We recommend at least five times greater volume of solution to the volume of particles.
    • Cover tightly and place containers into a centrifuge.
    • Centrifuge on highest setting for at least 5 minutes.
    • If some particles are still floating on the surface of water, more centrifuging may be necessary.
    • A small quantity of particles may accumulate on the top surface and not enter solution despite additional centrifugation. Typically, these particles will go into suspension over time (hours).
    Other Considerations
    • A greater length of centrifuging or larger volume of Tween solution may be necessary to suspend certain materials and particle sizes.
    • As a 0.1% Tween solution is sufficient for most applications, concentration levels could be raised to support particles that are more resistant to entering solution.
    • Once the particles are suspended, solution can may be diluted further to increase the volume.
    • Particles can be recycled and reused as necessary. The suspension might need to be repeated.
    • If no centrifuge is available, it is possible to shake the container by hand (up and down, upside down) to achieve the same result.

    Here is an example of Cospheric fluorescent beads 150 to 180micron in diameter being dispersed in a pilot bioreactor.

    About Cospheric

    Our extensive product line consists of more than two thousand unique spherical microparticle and nanoparticle products, all developed based on customer demand. We work with each individual customer to find a creative solution for their unique needs ­– tight particle size ranges, wide selection of colors, densities, properties and formulations. We are the sole global supplier for the majority of our products. We developed a disruptive technology which is redefining the microsphere market and creating a new category of precision spherical particles. Our research department is always excited to tackle new challenging projects. Explore at www.Cospheric.com.

    Other Information

    The information contained in this document is correct to the best of our knowledge at the date of publication. It should not be viewed as all inclusive, but as a guide only. It does not represent any guarantee of the properties of the product. Cospheric LLC shall not be held liable for any damage resulting from handling of or from contact with the above product. For these reasons, it is important that product users carry out their own tests to satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the safety precautions for their own intended applications.

  • Fluorescent Microspheres Used for Experiments in Plant Canopies

    Fluorescent Microspheres - Polymer Spheres - 1g/cc

    Fluorescent Microspheres – Polymer Spheres – 1g/cc

    The University of Utah in collaboration with USDA Labs in Corvallis, OR performed five field campaigns in commercial vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Among the methodologies developed over the five-years experiment was the use of fluorescent microsheres as a fungal spore analog.  The microspheres used were inert fluorescing polyethylene micropsheres in four separate colors manufactured by Cospheric.

    The article attached below outlines the technology developed as well as microspheres sampling and meteorological equipment used in the experiments.  The authors of the article conclude that “these techniques have enabled for incredibly detailed research into particle plume dynamics in a vineyard.”




  • Microspheres Used as a Drug Delivery System

    There has been numerous studies done and articles published in scientific publications about the advantages of microspheres as a drug delivery system vs conventional approach to drug delivery.  Design, Development and Future Application of Microspheres by Divya Rawat , U.K> Singh and Faizi Muzaffar,  Kharvel Subharti College of Pharmacy, published in PharmaTutor discusses the types of microspheres that posses the properties needed for various drug delivery systems, their advantages and limitations.  The micropsheres best suitable to be used in biomedical applications, research and lab experiments are polystyrene.  According to the article: “Polystyrene microspheres are typically used in biomedical applications due to their ability to facilitate procedures such as cell sorting and immune precipitation. Proteins and ligands adsorb onto polystyrene readily and permanently, which makes polystyrene microspheres suitable for medical research and biological laboratory experiments. Polyethylene microspheres are commonly used as permanent or temporary filler. Lower melting temperature enables polyethylene microspheres to create porous structures in ceramics and other materials. High sphericity of polyethylene microspheres, as well as availability of colored and fluorescent microspheres, makes them highly desirable for flow visualization and fluid flow analysis, microscopy techniques, health sciences, process troubleshooting and numerous research applications.”

    Another research paper that discusses advantages and disadvantages of microspheres use for drug delivery, as well as techniques to prepare microsheres and principle behind drug delivery system is Microspheres as Drug Carriers for Controlled Drug Delivery: a Review by Nisha Sharma, Neha Purwar and Prakash Chandra Gupta, University Institute of Pharmacy, C.S.J.M. University, Kanpur, India published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research.  Polymer microspheres were used for the experiment. The authors conclude that “microspheres are better choice of drug delivery system than many other types of drug delivery system. In future by combining various other strategies, microspheres will find the central and significant place in novel drug delivery, particularly in diseased cell sorting, diagnostics, gene & genetic materials, safe, targeted, specific and effective in-vitro delivery and supplements as miniature version of diseased organ and tissues in the body.”

  • Particle Image Velocimetry and Tracer Particle Visibility

    Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) expresses a vast field with varying techniques and data acquisition methods. However, the main goal is providing an optical method of flow visualization. The exact information obtained depends on which method is used, with new algorithms and approaches being discovered constantly.

    There are generally two ways data is obtained PIV and Particle Tracking Velocimetry (PTV) which can then be broken down into many other methods based on how exactly the data was obtained and the processing done to said data. PIV measures the velocity field of a fluid based on a Eulerian method where stated locations are observed over time to determine the flow. While PTV tracks the movement of singular particles over time, a Lagrangian approach. This provides a plot of the particles movement and by relation information about the fluid flow. They each use the same tracer particles however they look at them in different senses. If logs in a river are representations of our seed particles then PIV looks at the river and sees the logs moving through it determining how the river flows based on this information. While PTV watches the movement of individual logs to obtain similar information. Which leads to the assumption that tracking particles must be easily visualized.

    Visibility being an important aspect of tracer particles is a given but how those particles are visible is where differences can come about. Tracers can be visible if they block light from reaching the visualization mechanism (eye, camera, etc.) essentially being visible as a shadow. This method is known as backlit shadowgraphy where the flow is placed between an illumination source and a camera allowing for the absence of light (shadow) caused by tracer particles to be tracked.

    Reflective Silver Coated Hollow Glass

    Another approach to assuring particle visibility is using highly reflective spheres that will reflect in the direction of your camera set-up allowing them to appear as dots of high intensity light, of the illumination source used. Lasers are most commonly used as the illumination source for this form of particle visibility. As lasers have high power, high collimation, and a relatively tight emission bandwidth. Recently LED’s are also being used as the illumination source for reflectivity visualization methods as well as backlit shadowgraphy. LED’s may not currently have the power or collimation abilities of lasers but are consistently growing in power. LED’s also have a very limited emission spectrum as well as their ease of use and low cost compared to lasers.

    Fluorescent Tracer Particles

    Finally, some tracer particles can emit their own light which allows them to be an easily distinguishable wavelength from the illumination source which can often flood the visualization area. One of the most common examples of this would be fluorescent spheres. Which when excited by the illumination source will emit a different wavelength of light. This allows the wavelength of light used as your illumination source to be filtered out providing an image with just the light from tracers. Phosphorescent spheres fall into a category similar to fluorescent particles as phosphorescence emits light similarly to fluorescence. However, phosphorescence emits over longer periods of time. Another significant difference of phosphorescent materials is their unique temperature variance which allows for them to be used as a form of temperature sensor.

    With both PIV and PTV having their strengths and weaknesses there is no clear superior method. However, with advances in technology PTV is becoming more feasible and thus may overtake PIV methods due to its ability to provide greater data varieties. Visibility options also have their unique aspects that ensure their necessity in specific cases. Shadowgraphy is gaining traction in areas due to its reduced cost requirement and ease of use. While, fluorescent tracers remain as an ideal option for applications where shadowgraphy can not quite meet the necessary criteria.

  • Fluorescent Glass Microspheres

    Fluorescent Red Coated Soda Lime Glass MicrospheresSolid glass microspheres hemispherically coated with fluorescent coatings,  a fluorescent coating is precisely applied to half of the core sphere,  making the glass spheres appear colorful and fluorescent at daylight and exhibit bright fluorescent response under UV light.  Fluorescent coatings are available in seven standard colors, with three options for glass cores available for customers who require a fluorescent tracer of a specific emission spectra and density.  Fluorescent coatings can also be applied to other microsphere cores on special request, exact size range options vary by material.  For PIV applications that typically use green lasers (530nm) as excitation sources, we recommend utilizing our fluorescent red coating in conjunction with a 570-580nm high pass filter so only the fluorescent particles will be visible during imaging.

    Three standard core densities are:

    Borosilicate Glass Core – Density ~2.2g/cc
    Soda Lime Glass Core – Density ~2.5g/cc
    Barium Titanate Glass Core – Density ~4.5g/cc

    Seven standard fluorescent color coating options on glass with broad spectrum responses:

    Fluorescent Blue Glass (445nm peak emission) at 407nm excitation
    Fluorescent Green Glass (515nm peak emission) at 414nm excitation
    Fluorescent Yellow Glass (525nm peak emission) at 485nm excitation
    Fluorescent Orange-Yellow Glass (594nm peak emission) at 460nm excitation
    Fluorescent Orange Glass (606nm peak emission) at 577nm excitation
    Fluorescent Red Glass (607nm peak emission) at 585nm excitation
    Fluorescent Violet Glass (636nm peak emission) at 584nm excitation