Tangle Free

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Science  14 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5537, pp. 1957
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5537.1957a

Polymer fibers with submicrometer diameters can be produced by electrospinning, in which a reservoir of polymer fluid is charged and a fluid jet is accelerated through an electric field gradient toward a grounded collector. Unfortunately, the same instabilities that cause the fibers to become very narrow also make it difficult to control their orientation; instead, they form a tangled mat.

Theron et al. replaced the standard static or rotating drum collector with a rotating disc with a sharpened edge that focused the electric field at the collector. Unlike conventional electrospinning, in which the lateral motion of the fiber increases as it approaches the collector, the lateral motion of the fiber narrowed as it approached the disc. Most of the fibers collected near the edge of the disc, and residual charges on the fibers repelled each other to create isolated strands. The edge of the disc can be covered with a surface, such as carbon tape, to aid in the further processing of the polymer fibers. At longer collection times, a braid of well-oriented fibers formed, with the potential for use as a reinforcing material. — MSL

Nanotechnology12, 384 (2001).

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