Electro-spinning and characterization of nanofibres from polymer blends
Nanofibres obtained through solution electrospinning have gained an exponential interest in the international scientific community over the last decade. Thanks to the extremely fine fibres, specific and unique characteristics appear such as high specific surface area, small pore size and high porosity. Most of the effort in electrospinning has been spent on the spinning of various single polymer-solvent systems.
Recently cautious attempts towards polymer blends are noticed as to meet the strong requirements necessary for various applications. Within this, focus is mainly given to a mixture of natural and synthetic polymers in order to combine the favourable intrinsic characteristics of both. Natural polymers typically show better biocompatibility and biodegradability while synthetic polymers tend to have enhanced mechanical properties and are more easy to engineer for specific applications. An in-depth study of the nanofibres formation and the influence of the electrospinning parameters is not yet performed for polymer blends. It is however essential for obtaining the desired morphology and resulting fibre properties for future end-uses. The results of this study may thus greatly contribute to the international breakthrough of nanofibrous blends.
In this PhD proposal, focus is to be given to the natural polymer chitosan and its blends with the synthetic polymers polycaprolactone (PCL) and polyamide (PA 6, PA 6.6). Chitosan shows various advantages such as biocompatibility, biodegradability, non-toxicity and anti-microbial activity, which makes it an ideal candidate for use in biomedical and filtration applications . However because of the poor processability of chitosan in electrospinning and its relatively weak mechanical properties, chitosan is to be mixed with other polymers. In this project, PCL and PA are selected as second polymer component since they may provide superior mechanical characteristics vital for the applications mentioned above. Moreover PCL is biodegradable while PA has a higher thermal resistance. Electrospinning of pure PCL and PA is already thoroughly studied at UGent-Tex providing the necessary experience.