Why electrospinning is the future of the production of nanomaterials
The production and manufacturing industry is really beginning to wake up to the scope and potential nanofibers have to their production processes. The materials produced through electrospinning have some quite miraculous properties which can change the face of production as we know it.
Originally investigated as part of the textile production industry for specialised fabrics, the newer method of electrospinning to create nanomaterials has opened up whole new possibilities for the use of these materials.
For this reason, investment is being made into research of how different raw materials can affect the properties of the materials produced in ways we have never seen before.
It has a potentially unlimited scope of application
Nanofibers produced by means of electrospinning have possibly unlimited use and application. Because such a variety of raw materials can be used in the process, including metals and ceramics, and even biological material it is a growing field of study.
Already we are seeing amazing advancement in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals.
For example, the creation of skin grafts and organ barriers. These sheets of artificial skin have to be produced in such a way that they can meld with living tissue and not be rejected by the body. Nanofibers are produced at a molecular level, so the exact molecular structure can be created that allows for this.
Also for the slow release of drugs into the body, whether through a medical implant device that allows for daily slow release of chemicals into the bloodstream, or through the protective coating on drugs and nutrients to protect the pill from the harsh stomach acids in the human body to allow release in the intestines. Electrospinning allows for all of this.
Set up costs of a laboratory are lower than many other research facilities
One of the reasons why investment is being made in the research and development of nano materials is the cost of set up is lower than the usual manufacturing research laboratories. In fact the cost and set up time is so affordable some processors have actually been able to fully scale their nanotechnology production lines at a fraction of the cost of other processes.
Part of this is down to electrospinning equipment price. Not only is the equipment cheaper overall, without any reduction in quality, the machinery is adaptable and available in many sizes. Researchers can choose the type of machine they need for the work at hand, for example smaller benchtop sized machines for proof of concept studies, through to much larger pre-production machinery with all the bells and whistles needs to take that step into full production.
This means companies or academic institutions only need to invest a small amount in the early stages, and so reduce the risk in wasting the investment should it prove to be infeasible.
Added to this there machines are built to be user friendly, with touch screen interfaces to manage the controls. Someone with a basic knowledge of electrostatics can be trained to use the machines very quickly, in a matter of weeks when mentored correctly rather than months.
Nanofibers have amazing properties
Nanofibers are produced at a molecular level, and as such are virtually defect free. The effect of this is the materials are incredibly strong, with a high surface area to volume ratio, perfect in applications where a large surface area is needed.
Because of the efficiencies in the process, and the low set up requirements there are new nanostructures being developed every day. We can already see the development of tubular nanofibrous structures, yarns and 3D blocks of nanofibers.