Microparticles surround us. They are present in medicine, cosmetics, paints, and building materials, among others. Their popularity is such that the consulting firm Grand View Research estimates that by 2025, the world market for microspheres will have a value of more than 7,500 million euros. To produce them there are various techniques, such as pulverization or polymerization in suspension, which are manufactured in large quantities, but with a loss of quality in the process.
When Dutchman Tom Kamperman was getting his doctorate with a thesis on microgel technologies applied to tissue engineering, he and his colleagues realized that the techniques for encapsulating stem cells with hydrogel or making tissues look more natural in transplants were "very slow," he describes. In addition, production on an industrial scale affected the quality of microparticles and microdrops: they became more dispersed and less uniform. To solve this, Kamperman patented a microfluidic technology that offers large-scale, high-quality production. This achievement has led him to become one of the winners of Innovators Under 35 Europe from MIT Technology Review.
His IAMF ("in-air microfluidics") technology is 1,000 times faster than others today, according to Kamperman. "It is much faster than in a closed environment," because there are no resistances in the air, he sums up. Two jets of liquid from a micrometer join in the air to form particles, which solidify in suspension. They produce microgel pearls that are free of plastic, animal, and oil, making them ideal for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
According to the Dutchman, IAMF "is easy to implement in all types of production processes," whether in industry or research. In addition, it does not need power lines and is safe for use with flammable liquids. His company, IamFluidics, has received more than 900,000 euros to develop marketable products based on this technology.
In the short term, the team hopes that the most demanding markets for his technology will be cosmetics and academia. In the long term, he wants to focus on the pharmaceutical industry. His next step will be in the capture of carbon dioxide, but his illusions don't end here. The young man says one of their ambitions is to build a microparticle factory in the Netherlands.
Paloma Cabello, President of the Spanish hydrogel technology company HGBeyond and member of the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2019 jury, describes Kamperman as a "true inventor" with technical potential and creativity. In addition, she highlights his ability to bring people together around his project and his drive to raise funds.
By José Manuel Blanco
Translation: Brian Bostwick