Foam electrospinning: A multiple jet, needle-less process for nanofiber production



A multiple jet, needle-less process to fabricate electrospun nanofibers from foamed columns, produced by injecting compressed gas through a porous surface into polymer solutions, capable of circumventing syringe electrospinning shortcomings such as needle clogging and restrictions in production rate is presented. Using polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene oxide (PEO) as model systems, we identify key design, processing, and solution parameters for producing uniform fibers. Increasing electrode surface area produces thicker mats, suggesting charge distribution through the bulk foam facilitates electrospinning. Similar trends between foam and syringe electrospinning are observed for collection distance, electric field strength, and polymer concentration. Interestingly, the empirical correlation between polymer entanglement and fiber formation are found to be similar for both foam and traditional needle electrospinning, but the fiber crystallinity shows enhancement with foam electrospinning. In addition, foam electrospinning with a PEO-nonionic surfactant system yields two orders of magnitude increase in production rate compared to syringe electrospinning. © 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 60: 1355–1364, 2014