Electrospinning is the process by which polymers are melts are spun using an electric charge into nanofibers to produce materials that have a wider range of applications in medicine, pharmaceuticals, textiles, filtration systems and many many more.
As research in this field is progressing, we are seeing more and more new uses and innovative ideas for the materials across the world. Increasingly production and manufacturing companies are looking to this process as a means to produce materials as part of a wider supply chain, and here is why.
Start up costs are comparatively low
Compared to other manufacturing processes, setup of electrospinning equipment is considered cheap. In fact for just a few thousand dollars you could have a small lab set up in and running in no time at all. When you compare that to the costs of start up for a factory in the traditional sense it is incredibly low.
It can also be used in mass production
Although this would require a little more investment to get the right type of equipment and train the technicians, it is possible to use the process in a mass production way, and several companies are already doing this.
Training to use the equipment is also simple
With the machines available to day it does not take long to train up employees to use it. Only a very basic understanding of how polymers and electrostatics work is enough to have someone fully operation in a matter of weeks, rather than years of academic study.
There is no limit to the types of materials that can be produced
Electrospinning works on a molecular level, and for this reason it is possible to use electrospinning to produce nanofibers from almost any material, depending on the intended purpose. It is even possible to use metal and ceramics from the polymers.
Nanofibers are incredibly strong and virtually defect free
Because nanofibers are formed at a molecular level, it is almost defect free and also has a high surface area to volume ratio. This makes it strong and is also very useful in applications where a large surface area is needed.
A wide variety of nanostructures have already been made
Electrospinning is so much more efficient and has such low requirements, investment in research has resulted in many new nanostructures being developed. We are starting to see the development of tubular nanofibrous structures, yarns and 3D blocks of nanofibers.
A wide variety of polymers can also be used
That such a wide range of polymers can be used in the production of electrospun nanofibers, it means that functionalization is much easier. By blending new solutions and melts before the spinning process it is possible to adapt the functional properties of the finished product.
Commercial applications are very wide ranging
Take for example the creation of a wound or organ patch. The material used need to be able to mesh with living tissue and allow natural growth of those tissues around it. Only with nanofiber technology would this be possible in a way that still allows the body to function and heal. It has revolutionized the world of skin grafts.
Also consider the application in filtration and protective clothing and air masks. To be able to allow air through but hold back any toxic substances and protect the person within is another way in which electrospun nanofibers are being used.
It is also being used in pharmaceutical applications. Take for example patients that require a steady, slow, continuous release of medicine. There are many slow release medicinal implants that are used for this purpose, sitting. And these implants are produced through electrospinning and nanofiber technology.