Channel-fouling is a pervasive problem in continuous flow chemistry, causing poor product control and reactorfailure. Droplet chemistry, in which the reaction mixture flows as discrete droplets inside an immiscible carrier liquid, prevents fouling by isolating the reaction from the channel walls. Unfortunately, the difficulty of controllably adding new reagents to an existing droplet stream has largely restricted droplet chemistry to simple reactions in which all reagents are supplied at the time of droplet formation. Here we describe an effective method for repeatedly adding controlled quantities of reagents to droplets. The reagents are injected into a multiphase fluid stream, comprising the carrier liquid, droplets of the reaction mixture and an inert gas that maintains a uniform droplet spacing and suppresses new droplet formation. The method, which is suited to many multistep reactions, is applied to a five-stage quantum dot synthesis wherein particle growth is sustained by repeatedly adding fresh feedstock.
The article is published online in Nature Communications and is free to access.