Multi-response analysis in the material characterisation of electrospun poly (lactic acid)/halloysite nanotube composite fibres based on Taguchi design of experiments: fibre diameter, non-intercalation and nucleation effects
Poly (lactic acid) (PLA)/halloysite nanotube (HNT) composite fibres were prepared by using a simple and versatile electrospinning technique. The systematic approach via Taguchi design of experiments (DoE) was implemented to investigate factorial effects of applied voltage, feed rate of solution, collector distance and HNT concentration on the fibre diameter, HNT non-intercalation and nucleation effects. The HNT intercalation level, composite fibre morphology, their associated fibre diameter and thermal properties were evaluated by means of X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), imaging analysis and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), respectively. HNT non-intercalation phenomenon appears to be manifested as reflected by the minimal shift of XRD peaks for all electrospun PLA/HNT composite fibres. The smaller-fibre-diameter characteristic was found to be sequentially associated with the feed rate of solution, collector distance and applied voltage. The glass transition temperature (Tg) and melting temperature (Tm) are not highly affected by varying the material and electrospinning parameters. However, as the indicator of the nucleation effect, the crystallisation temperature (Tc) of PLA/HNT composite fibres is predominantly impacted by HNT concentration and applied voltage. It is evident that HNT’s nucleating agent role is confirmed when embedded with HNTs to accelerate the cold crystallisation of composite fibres. Taguchi DoE method has been found to be an effective approach to statistically optimise critical parameters used in electrospinning in order to effectively tailor the resulting physical features and thermal properties of PLA/HNT composite fibres.
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The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support from Curtin Internal Research Grants (IRG) 2010 (project No.: 47604) to undertake this work. The authors are also indebted to Ms. Elaine Millers and Dr. Cat Kealley from Centre for Materials Research at Curtin University for technical assistance with SEM and XRD, respectively.
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