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Electrospinning of polylactide and its composites with carbon nanotubes

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Abstract

Electrospinning of the biodegradable polylactide (PLA) and its composites containing carbon nanotubes (CNTs) was studied in terms of solution concentrations and solvents effects as well as CNT loadings. The results reveal that the PLA fibers obtained from the solutions using the mixed solvents of chloroform/assistant solvent (v/v 3/1) show better morphologies than those from the solutions using chloroform as the single solvent. This is due to the synergistic effect by the improved conductivity and altered viscosity with addition of assistant solvent. Moreover, the surface structure of fibers depends on the volatility of assistant solvents strongly. Using volatile acrylonitrile or acetone as the assistant solvents, the columned fibers with porous surface structure are obtained; while the flat fibers with fluted surface are formed using nonvolatile dimethyl sulfoxide as the assistant solvents. As for electrospinning of the PLA/CNT composites, the morphology of obtained fibers is closely related to the dispersion of CNTs in the fibers. At low loading levels, the CNTs can be well embedded in the PLA matrix and oriented along the fiber axis, forming nanowire structure. At high loading levels, the CNTs are mainly dispersed as entangled bundles along the fiber axis, and as a result, the obtained fibers show tortuous or misshaped morphologies. Compared with that of the neat PLA fibers, the overall morphologies of the composite fibers are more or less degraded because the presence of some small CNT aggregates in the solutions easily leads to the formation of beaded fiber structure during electrospinning. The conductivity of the obtained composite fiber mats was further studied in terms of CNT loadings. POLYM. COMPOS., © 2011 Society of Plastics Engineers.

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