Article

Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 3890-3898

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Nanofibre fabrication in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for improved fibre consistency

  • Oliver HardickAffiliated withMicro and Nanotechnology Centre, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton LaboratoryThe Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London Email author 
  • , Bob StevensAffiliated withMicro and Nanotechnology Centre, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
  • , Daniel G. BracewellAffiliated withThe Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London

Abstract

Fabricating nanofibres with reproducible characteristics is an important demand in the membrane industry in order to establish commercial viability. In this study, the effect of controlled atmospheric conditions on electrospun cellulose acetate (CA) nanofibres was evaluated for temperatures ranging 17.5–32.5 °C and relative humidity ranging 20–70%. CA solution (0.2 g/mL) in a solvent mixture of acetone/dimethylformamide/ethanol (2:2:1) was electrospun into nonwoven fibre mesh with the fibre diameter ranging from 150 nm to 1 μm. The resulting nanofibres were analysed by differential scanning calorimetry, showing a correlation of reducing melt enthalpy with increasing atmospheric temperature. The opposite was seen with increasing atmospheric humidity, which conferred increasing melt enthalpy. Analysis of scanning electron microscopy images provided a correlation of reducing average fibre diameter with increasing atmospheric temperature and increasing fibre diameter with increasing atmospheric humidity. These results correlate with the melt enthalpy results, suggesting that finer CA nanofibres infer a lower melt enthalpy. Together these studies provide strong evidence that the controlled atmospheric conditions affect the fibre diameter of the resulting electrospun nanofibres. A salient observation in this study was that increased humidity reduced the effect of fibre beading yielding a more consistent and therefore better quality of fibre. This has apparent implications for the reproducibility of nanofibre production and offers a new method of controlling fibre morphology. This study has highlighted the requirement to control atmospheric conditions during the electrospinning process to fabricate reproducible fibre mats.