Electrospinning As a Processing Method for Electroactive Polymers and Composites

  • Pawlowski K
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Abstract

Electrospinning was examined for its potential to create functional materials. Three distinct electroactive materials were electrospun into fibers and fiber mats and then characterized with the intent of determining their utility in aerospace and biomedical applications such as micro-air vehicles and the cardiovascular system. Electrospun Graft Elastomers demonstrated potential as actuators, as electromechanical strain testing showed comparable response to the film form of this material. Further improvement of electroactive response was realized with high dielectric inclusions and fiber orientation. Electrospin processing imparted piezoelectric properties to the fibers of poly(vinylidene fluoride). Differential scanning calorimetry and infrared spectroscopy indicated a degree of control over crystalline phase in poly(vinylidene fluoride) fibers based on electrospinning conditions. An increase in dielectric constant in the direction of fiber orientation proved that electrospinning also caused alignment of single- walled carbon nanotubes within the fibers. Ultem®/aligned single-walled carbon nanotube fiber nanocomposites were also fabricated; these showed evidence of enhanced piezoelectric strain response relative to fibers composed of the matrix alone. Thermal and static mechanical testing of all three types of fibers revealed no significant findings that would limit their use in abovementioned applications. Extract biocompatibility tests did not indicate severe adverse reaction of L929 mouse fibroblast cells to fiber mats for either Graft Elastomers or poly(vinylidene fluoride). These contributions prove that functional electroactive materials can be produced utilizing electrospinning as the processing method. This technique is simpler and cheaper to carry out, and resulting fiber mats showed comparable or improved properties and performance compared to other physical forms of the same materials.

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Authors

  • Kristin J. Pawlowski

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