Everything about Microspheres
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  • 12th International Symposium on Particle Image Velcoimetry

    Particle Image Velocimetry and Seeding Particles

    I recently attended the 12th International Symposium on Particle Image Velocimetry in Busan, Korea on behalf of Cospheric, a company that specializes in precision microspheres. With the hope of learning more about seeding particles involved in PIV research and what advancements in microsphere technology would benefit the work being done in flow visualization. Through conversations with many attendees I was able to gather information on some of the important factors involved in tracer particle and their ideal capabilities. An interesting addition to seeding particles brought up by several individuals was temperature sensitive spheres which could potentially provide temperature field information.

    Below is an example of neutrally buoyant microspheres which are used as flow tracers in PIV applications.

    Fluorescent Red Polyethylene Microspheres

    The venue, Haeundae Grand Hotel, was spectacular with multiple large halls available for the over 200 presentations. The surrounding city was a maze of markets and skyscrapers nestled between the mountains and coast. Wonderful weather graced us, even rivaling that of Santa Barbara. Which was not something I had considered possible. I had the pleasure and displeasure of trying many unique foods. With bibimbap from a shop near the beach and shrimp dumplings from a small business steeped in the steam used to cook their dumplings being definite highlights. While the eel which I am still unsure whether was cooked or not falling on the other side of the spectrum. I am still processing the wealth of information from ISPIV 2017 and will express my conclusions as it manages to leak from my head.

  • Glass Microspheres Used in Studying Self-Cleaning Gecko-Inspired Adhesives

    Image of Self-cleaning Adhesive of Gecko's Toes

    Image of Self-cleaning Adhesive of Gecko's Toes Source: wikipedia.com

    Researchers from Carnegie Melon University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have recently published an article in Journal of the Royal Society titled Staying Sticky: Contact Self-Cleaning of Gecko-Inspired Adhesives that presents the first gecko-inspired adhesive that matches both the attachment and self-cleaning properties of gecko’s foot on a smooth surface.

    Using glass microspheres to simulate contamination the scientists created a synthetic gecko adhesive that could self-clean and recover lost adhesion. Real world applications of self-cleaning adhesives are reusable adhesive tapes, clothing, medical adhesives (bandages) and pick-and-place robots, among others.

    Everyday challenge with traditional adhesives is that they loose their stickiness once contaminated. Geckos have been intriguing researchers for decades because of their unique and striking capability to maintain the stickiness of their toes through contact self-cleaning. They can travel up the walls and ceilings in a wide variety of “dirty” settings retaining adhesion.

    Upon experimentation, scientists discovered that the critical variable is the relative size of microfibers that make up the adhesive compared to the diameter of contaminant particles. Glass microspheres were used in diameters from 3 to 215microns. Glass microspheres were packed in air and used as supplied. Contamination of the samples was achieved by brining each sample in contact with a monolayer of glass microspheres with specific speeds under predetermined compressive loads. The cleaning process involved a load-drag-unload procedure.

    Best self-cleaning results were obtained with the largest contaminants (glass microspheres), with the size of the adhesive fiber much smaller than the contaminating particle. This information is important to know when designing self-cleaning adhesives—make the adhesive fibers much smaller for improved adhesion recovery. This cleaning mechanism requires unloading particles by dragging. The other extreme of contaminating microspheres being much smaller than the adhesive fibers has advantages in some situations, even though it works by a different mechanism. Smaller microspheres tended to become embedded into the adhesive material. Particle embedding is a temporary cleaning process but might be sufficient in some applications.

  • Silica Nanospheres as Photonic Nanostructure Found in the ‘Disco’ Clam Ctennoides Ales

    Scientists from UC Berkeley have recently discovered that a strange naturally occurring bright display of the ‘disco’ or ‘electric’ clam Ctenoides ales is actually a photonic display created by a layer of silica nanospheres. The display functions solely by reflecting light.

    An article was published in the Journal of The Royal Society titled “A Dynamic Broadband Reflector Built from Microscopic Silica Spheres in the ‘Disco’ Clam Ctenoides Ales“, where the researchers shared their findings.

    Laboratory elemental analysis of the reflective nanospheres showed that they are indeed composed of amorphous silica. Both the outer shells and the cores are composed of silica. Silica nanospheres are secreted by the animal and used as a light scattering structure in a behavior modulated reflective photonic display.

    The measurements show that the diameter of the silica nanospheres is at around 300nanometers, an optimal particle size for scattering visible light, especially the shorter blue-green wavelengths of 400-500nm that predominate at 3-50m underwater, which is typically the clam’s habitat. In addition to the diameter, the highly organized packing structure of the nanospheres aid in the scattering of the visible light at the shorter wavelengths.

    The display is so bright that it has been mistakenly thought of as bioluminescent, but the findings show that it is actually based on light scattered by photonic nanostructures.

    Silica has a high index of refraction at n=1.43 at 589nm.

    Silica Nanospheres - 300nm in diameter

    Silica Nanospheres - 300nm in diameter - available from CosphericNano

    This study is extremely interesting to scientists in many different fields because it opens their minds up to many creative uses of silica nanospheres that have not been known before. The findings show a practical way to manipulate light in low light situations. Among its other advantages, silica, similar to glass, is a very durable material, with high melt point. Using silica nanospheres in tightly packed arrays to create photonic nanostructures seems like a great idea.

    Highly precise and spherical silica nanospheres with narrow size distribution, diameters around 300nm and sphericity of greater than 99% in dry powder from can be purchased from CosphericNano—a new website specializing in precise silica nanospheres.

  • Black Paramagnetic Spheres and Micropsheres 10micron to 1.4mm

    Black polyethylene paramagnetic microspheres are now available in wide selection of particle sizes ranging from 10 micron to 1.4 millimeters. The particles are supplied in dry powder form. No solvents are used in the manufacturing process. Black paramagnetic polymer microspheres have a strong response to magnetic fields and can be manipulated with a magnet. Highly opaque particles with maximum hiding power.

    Paramagnetic microspheres have the ability to increase in magnetization with an applied magnetic field and loose their magnetism when the field is removed. Neither hysteresis nor residual magnetization is observed and that provides the end use two very practical advantages:

    • When the filed is removed, the microspheres demagnetize and re-disperse easily. This property allows efficient washing steps, low background and good reproducibility.
    • The behavior of the microspheres is always the same whatever the magnetization cycles may be. Such behavior is a key point for automated instrument.

    According to Wikipedia, paramagnetic materials have a small, positive susceptibility to magnetic fields. These materials are slightly attracted by a magnetic field and the material does not retain the magnetic properties when the external field is removed. Paramagnetic properties are due to the presence of some unpaired electrons, and from the realignment of the electron paths caused by the external magnetic field.

    Encyclopedia Britanica defines paramagnetism as a kind of magnetism characteristic of materials weakly attracted by a strong magnet, named and extensively investigated by the British scientist Michael Faraday beginning in 1845. Most elements and some compounds are paramagnetic. Strong paramagnetism (not to be confused with the ferromagnetism of the elements iron, cobalt, nickel, and other alloys) is exhibited by compounds containing iron, palladium, platinum, and the rare-earth elements.

    Paramagnetic microparticles are used in numerous applications where they can be manipulated with a magnet, observed and cleaned-up for reuse.

    • Solid Phase Immunoassays
    • Bacteria Detection
    • High Throughput screening
    • Rapid Tests
    • Cell Sorting
    • Biosensors
    • Nucleic Acids Technology
    • Microfluidics
  • Bichromal Janus Particles, Microspheres, Microbeads – Stock selection or Custom-made

    Bichromal (half-white half-black or any other color) Microspheres, Janus Particles

    Bichromal (half-white half-black or any other color) Microspheres, Janus Particles. In this picture - Paramagnetic black microspheres with partial white coating - Magnification 40x.

    Cospheric offers unique capability to manufacture Janus microspheres and microparticles with partial coatings and dual functionality. Currently half-shell or hemispherical coatings can be applied to any sphere (glass, polymer, ceramic) in sizes 45micron in diameter and higher. Coatings can be customized for any color and coverage of between 20% to 60% of the sphere. Each coating is custom formulated for color, charge, magnetic, electric, and surface properties, and solvent resistance per customers’ needs.

    Half-coated glass microspheres - Partial coating on glass particles

    Half-coated glass microspheres - Partial coating on glass particles. In this picture - Soda lime glass microspheres with partial red coating - Magnification 40x.

    Hemispherical coatings of less than 1 micron with tolerances as low as 0.25 micron have been routinely demonstrated.  Color combinations are truly unlimited. White, black, silver, blue, green, red, yellow, brown, purple as well as transparent microspheres have been made. Sphericity of greater than 90% and custom particle size ranges are offered.

    We have successfully coated solid and hollow glass microsphere, including soda-lime, borosilicate, and barium titanate glass microspheres. We have also coated on silver.

    Half-coated Microspheres

    Half-coated Microspheres

    Optically anisotropic spheres and janus particles with magnetic half-shells have been originally developed for applications in electronic displays, such as e-paper, but are now widely used in numerous applications in diagnostics, medical research, microscopy and biotechnology, as well as electronics, due to their ability to orient themselves in response to electromagnetic field and show a visual response. This is achieved by making spheres both bipolar and bichromal, with dipole precisely aligned with two differently colored hemispheres. As the spheres align themselves, the viewer will observe the color of one hemisphere, while the other hemisphere will be hidden from view, providing an obvious strong visible indication of the presence of the field or other stimuli.  In alternating electromagnetic field, these microspheres have been proven to spin at hundreds of times per second.