Silk is now making inroads into advanced pharmaceutical and biomedical applications. Both bottom-up and top-down approaches can be applied to silk and the resulting aqueous silk solution can be processed into a range of material formats, including nanoparticles. Here, we demonstrate the potential of microfluidics for the continuous production of silk nanoparticles with tuned particle characteristics. Our microfluidic-based design ensured efficient mixing of different solvent phases at the nanoliter scale, in addition to controlling the solvent ratio and flow rates. The total flow rate and aqueous : solvent ratios were important parameters affecting yield (1 mL min−1 > 12 mL min−1). The ratios also affected size and stability; a solvent : aqueous total flow ratio of 5 : 1 efficiently generated spherical nanoparticles 110 and 215 nm in size that were stable in water and had a high beta-sheet content. These 110 and 215 nm silk nanoparticles were not cytotoxic (IC50 > 100 μg mL−1) but showed size-dependent cellular trafficking. Overall, microfluidic-assisted silk nanoparticle manufacture is a promising platform that allows control of the silk nanoparticle properties by manipulation of the processing variables.
- nanoparticle tuning
- pharmaceutical applications of silk