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Controlled packing and single-droplet resolution of 3D-printed functional synthetic tissues

Abstract: 3D-printing networks of droplets connected by interface bilayers are a powerful platform to build synthetic tissues in which functionality relies on precisely ordered structures. However, the structural precision and consistency in assembling these structures is currently limited, which restricts intricate designs and the complexity of functions performed by synthetic tissues. Here, we report that the equilibrium contact angle (θDIB) between a pair of droplets is a key parameter that dictates the tessellation and precise positioning of hundreds of picolitre-sized droplets within 3D-printed, multi-layer networks. When θDIB approximates the geometrically-derived critical angle (θc) of 35.3°, the resulting networks of droplets arrange in regular hexagonal close-packed (hcp) lattices with the least fraction of defects. With this improved control over droplet packing, we can 3D-print functional synthetic tissues with single-droplet-wide conductive pathways. Our new insights into 3D droplet packing permit the fabrication of complex synthetic tissues, where precisely positioned compartments perform coordinated tasks.

Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 2105 (2020)

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