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Applicant Ofner Alessandro
Number 181833
Funding scheme Bridge - Proof of Concept
Research institution Departement Materialwissenschaft ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Material Sciences
Start/End 01.01.2019 - 31.12.2019
Approved amount 130'000.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Material Sciences
Fluid Dynamics

Keywords (9)

Size-Control; Microfluidics; Monodisperse; Microencapsulation; Microparticles; High-Throughput; Microcapsules; High-Volume; Microcaps

Lay Summary (German)

Mikrokapseln werden benutzt, um kleine Mengen an aktiven Materialien geschützt zu Ihrem Ziel zu befördern. Solche Mikrokapseln haben viele Anwendungen z.B. in der Pharma-, der Kosmetik- und der Nahrungsmittelindustrie. Heutige industrielle Herstellungsprozesse haben jedoch keine präzise Kontrolle über die Kapselgrösse und deren Grössenverteilung. Dies führt zu unkontrollierten Freigabeprofilen, zu ungenauer Dosierung sowie auch einer verringerten Stabilität. Mikrofluidik ist eine Technologie, mit welcher hoch präzise Mikrokapseln hergestellt werden können. Jedoch mangelt diese noch an Skalierbarkeit, Reproduzierbarkeit und Robustheit, was ungenügende Herstellungsraten für die Industrie führt.
Lay summary
Durch unsere Forschung haben wir eine neue Technologie entwickelt, welche Präzision durch Mikrofluidik mit einer industrieller Herstellungsrate kombiniert. Mit unserem Prototypen ermöglichen wir eine präzise Kontrolle über die Mikrokapsel-Grösse, Robustheit, hohe Herstellungsraten von bis zu 5 L/h und Flexibilität in der Materialauswahl. Unsere Technologie hat schon das Interesse der Industrie erweckt und wir haben verschiedene Herausforderungen für eine erfolgreiche industrielle Anwendung erkannt. Drei davon werden wir in diesem Jahr angehen: I) Entwicklung einer automatisierten Mikrokapsel-Produktion, II) Erweiterung der möglichen Kapselgrössen von 10 - 2000 µm, und III) Einführen einer Post-Process Plattform.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.03.2020

Lay Summary (English)

Microcaps - Microencapsulation with Swiss precision
Lay summary

Microcaps produces microcapsules with Swiss precision. Precise control of the microcapsule’s size enables to release an active ingredient in a targeted manner. This is used in pharmaceuticals for drug delivery, in the food sector for probiotics or flavorings and in the cosmetics sector for fragrances or anti-aging substances. These products contain microencapsulated actives to protect the ingredient and to transport them in a second step to the desired target. Industrial spray dryers, fluidizers, or machines with high shear forces are today’s used technologies. These processes lead to very uncontrolled microcapsule sizes, require time- and cost-effective filter processes which cause a lot of waste, and might cause an unfavorable harming effect when encapsulating living materials such as cells, bacteria, or phages. ETH Zurich spin-off Microcaps offers a new gold standard as manufacturing method that can produce precise microcapsules in industrial quantities.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 31.03.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Bioencapsulation Conference Individual talk Microcaps: Monodisperse Microcapsules 27.08.2019 Strasbourg, France Ofner Alessandro;

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Video/Film Radio Zürisee Beitrag German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Red Bull Innovator Red Bulletin International 2020
Talks/events/exhibitions Swiss Technology Award Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2020
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Microcaps News International 2019


Title Year
Poncelet Award for Microencapsulation 2019

Use-inspired outputs


Name Year


Microencapsulation is widely used to carry and deliver active material to its target in various fields, such as pharmaceutics, cosmetics, or nutraceutics. The combined microencapsulation and microparticle market revenue in 2020 is estimated to US$13.9bn. The biggest market section is pharmaceutics and medical technology, followed by cosmetics, agrochemicals, and food. Today’s microencapsulated materials have neither control in actual particle size nor in their size distribution. Hence, the final products often have unknown release profiles, poor doses control, and a decreased stability over time. Accordingly, there is a high industrial need to tailor microparticles and capsules precisely to the desired application needs. The tailored production of microparticles is enabled by microfluidics, which allows for creating microemulsions, -particles and -capsules monodispersely at desired sizes. At this point in time, state-of-the-art microfluidic techniques are only working on lab-scales, as they lack scalability, robustness, and reproducibility. During preliminary research of a PhD study at ETH Zurich, Microcaps developed a novel microfluidic membrane that enables to overcome current microfluidic limitations. Our value proposition consists of the four combined benefits of 1) size-precision, 2) robustness, 3) high-throughput, and 4) essentially unlimited material processability. Microcaps already gained industrial interest for its microencapsulation technique and recognized the challenges toward an industrial implementation. This gap will be addressed over the time period of Bridge Proof-of-Concept project. During this year, three milestones will be achieved which were defined based on direct market needs. They consist of I) establishing an encapsulation platform, II) broadening the size range of micromaterial, and III) implementing a post-process platform. Within the above-mentioned markets, Microcaps targets mid- to high-end products with a substantial need of precise doses and release profile control.The ETH spin-off Microcaps AG was founded in March 2019 by the two co-founders Alessandro Ofner and Michael Hagander and currently consist of 9 team members. The team is very interdisciplinary, covering fields of mechanical and chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, and food science.Microcaps' patented microfluidic technology entails all benefits to overcome the current limits of microfluidics. The company's vision is to set the new gold standard in industry and bring Swiss precision to microencapsulation.A summary of the Microcaps can be found online: