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Keywords:

  • electrospinning;
  • polymer fibers;
  • nanofibers;
  • branched fibers;
  • ribbon;
  • jets;
  • polymer solutions;
  • fluid mechanics;
  • nanotechnology;
  • fibers

Abstract

In addition to round nanofibers, electrospinning a polymer solution can produce thin fibers with a variety of cross-sectional shapes. Branched fibers, flat ribbons, ribbons with other shapes, and fibers that were split longitudinally from larger fibers were observed. The transverse dimensions of these asymmetric fibers were typically 1 or 2 μm, measured in the widest direction. A correlation of the branches and bends, observed in high-frame-rate videography of the electrified jets of polymer solutions from which the ribbons and branched fibers were produced, suggest that these phenomena occur at scales ranging from around 1 mm to 1 μm. The observation of fibers with these cross-sectional shapes from a number of different kinds of polymers and solvents indicates that fluid mechanical effects, electrical charge carried with the jet, and evaporation of the solvent all contributed to the formation of the fibers. The influence of a skin on the jets of polymer solutions accounts for a number of the observations. The observed shapes can be used as guides for the extension of mathematical or computer-generated models for the electrospinning process. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 39: 2598–2606, 2001