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Posted: Mar 13, 2013
Aligned Nanofibers Could Be New Driver in Nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) While nanotechnology is a highly dynamic business, nanomaterial use has mainly been restricted to filtration. Broader application is hampered by the fact that these fibers, a thousand times finer than a human hair, are made at random, resembling a dish of spaghetti under an electron microscope. Now, however, there is a platform for new applications to come to the fore following the scientist-led design of 4SPIN, new apparatus capable of producing nanofibers that are 97% aligned.
“Regular fiber arrangement is important in many fields. For example, you incorporate nanoparticles into fibers, create parallel fibers, or dissolve the fiber material. As a result, you get the absolutely precise alignment of particles needed for electronics. Alternatively, you can develop materials with varying tensile stress in selected directions. Nanofibers can be arranged to create ‘poles’ guiding cell growth for injured nerves and muscles. The perfect arrangement of nanofibers paves the way for numerous new applications,” says Contipro Biotech’s Associate Professor Vladimir Velebny as he explains the potential of this new development.
Nanofibre layers from biopolymer.
While 4SPIN is by no means the first device capable of aligning nanofibers, it stands out from existing technologies in that, rather than producing nanomaterials with the 80% alignment achievable to date, it has pushed up the alignment rate to 97%. This has been made possible by the precision design of the collector, which draws on a combination of electrostatic forces and rotation to align the nanofibers.
4SPIN is also compatible with other types of collectors generating random or aligned nanofiber layers with varying degrees of organization. By applying various combinations of electrodes, nanofiber layers can be created with controlled morphology and with varying macroscopic dimensions. Nanofibers need not be made solely from the synthetic polymers usable in technical fields, but can also be produced from polymer mixtures or pure natural polymers. As a result, the apparatus offers potential for the development of internal nanomaterial applications in medicine.
Although 4SPIN is a compact metre-high device suitable for laboratory benches, that does not mean that it is intended only for laboratory research. Its most powerful emitter – a multi needleless jet – is able to produce ample quantities of nanofiber layers. A pilot version of the device is now being designed, with an industrial machine in the pipeline. This underscores the fact that the designers do not just want to offer a means of following new paths in applied research, but also want to facilitate the upscaling of results to an industrial level.
Source: Contipro (press release)
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