A wide range of industries are now putting investment and research resources into the exploration of nanomaterials. The inherent properties in the nano-sized materials are used in everything from clothing and the manufacture of filters through to medical, biological and pharmaceutical use.
Created through a special process known as electrospinning, or EHDP, the manufacture of these materials requires specialist electrospinning equipment, which is relatively cheap to set up in a laboratory or production environment.
How electrospinning creates nano and micro materials
The theory behind the process, although highly technical, is a relatively simple one. A variety of raw materials are used to create a solution of polymer melts, solvents and other ingredients. The materials chosen will determine the properties of the final product.
Molecular entanglement takes place in the mix, before it is fed through capillaries and a high voltage applied to create a jet that can be stretched into fibers, while the solvent gets evaporated.
Finally the dry fiber is formed into a membrane or material, depending on the intended use. This can be quite wide ranging, and so although the science behind it all remains exactly the same, the electrospinning machines must be correct for the type of usage as defined by the manufacturer.
Large number of industries are leading the way in production methods and usage
Due to the versatility of the materials, the use of them when produced by electrospinning is only limited to the innovation of academic researchers.
Take for example their application in growing artificial tissue for use as skin grafts or in surgical procedures to protect organs and fix hernias. It can mold with living tissue, and still allow the cells to grow and function.
Also in medical devices, such as biomedical implants, that can mange the low release of drugs into the body. It is also often used as coatings for other items, for example pharmaceutical drugs. The process helps give products protection from the environment around it but also maintain the quality of the interior product within.
Of course, nanofibers are still a key part of clothing production, particularly in protective clothing that has to prevent the transfer of toxic substances, or in lightweight breathable clothing such as in sportswear. The initial development of electrospinning was led by the textile industry.
This is really just scratching the surface of what modern uses there are already in progress, and new developments are being researched and released into production all the time.
There are many benefits to the use of nanomaterials
Nano and microfibers and materials have a huge range of benefits. For example the surface area to volume ratio of nanofiber, due to the nanodimension of the fibers, is very high. And because they are created at a molecular level, the materials produced are virtually defect free – vitally important for quality of performance. Different materials, such as polymers, metals and ceramics can be spun together to give different final properties post production, and that is what makes the range of use so varied and shows potential in many manufacturing sectors.
There is also a huge cost saving benefit. Setting up a lab or a clean room to carry out electrospinning is very cheap when compared with the set up of other industrial processes and so the investment required is far less than other manufacturing set ups. Several companies have even scaled up the production of the nanofibrous membrane, to enable mass production at low cost. It is surprisingly simple, as staff can be upskilled quickly and efficiently to manage the process. Especially as there are machines now with incredibly easy user controls.
It is vital that, in order to achieve outstanding results, the chosen manufacturer of machinery is of the highest quality. It is very important. Particularly when trusting the machinery to produce highly technical fibers, with the right polymers, but the right equipment.
Nano materials bring to humanity technological advances that revolutionize industries, such as medicine, that greatly benefit the health of human beings. At the forefront of modern technology and its development and production, the potential for vastly improving human quality of life is huge. Even the current uses are just the tip of the iceberg as to what could be achieved in the future.