Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Making ‘nanospinning’ practical --Nanofibers have a dizzying range of possible applications, but they’ve been prohibitively expensive to make. MIT researchers hope to change that.

Abstract:
Nanofibers — strands of material only a couple hundred nanometers in diameter — have a huge range of possible applications: scaffolds for bioengineered organs, ultrafine air and water filters, and lightweight Kevlar body armor, to name just a few. But so far, the expense of producing them has consigned them to a few high-end, niche applications.

Making ‘nanospinning’ practical --Nanofibers have a dizzying range of possible applications, but they’ve been prohibitively expensive to make. MIT researchers hope to change that.

Cambridge, MA | Posted on November 19th, 2012

Luis Velásquez-García, a principal research scientist at MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and his group hope to change that. At the International Workshop on Micro and Nanotechnology for Power Generation and Energy Conversion Applications in December, Velásquez-García, his student Philip Ponce de Leon, and Frances Hill, a postdoc in his group, will describe a new system for spinning nanofibers that should offer significant productivity increases while drastically reducing power consumption.

Using manufacturing techniques common in the microchip industry, the MTL researchers built a one-square-centimeter array of conical tips, which they immersed in a fluid containing a dissolved plastic. They then applied a voltage to the array, producing an electrostatic field that is strongest at the tips of the cones. In a technique known as electrospinning, the cones eject the dissolved plastic as a stream that solidifies into a fiber only 220 nanometers across.

In their experiments, the researchers used a five-by-five array of cones, which already yields a sevenfold increase in productivity per square centimeter over even the best existing methods. But, Velásquez-García says, it should be relatively simple to pack more cones onto a chip, boosting productivity even more. Indeed, he says, in prior work on a similar technique called electrospray, his lab was able to cram almost a thousand emitters into a single square centimeter. And multiple arrays could be combined in a panel to further increase yields.

Because the new paper was prepared for an energy conference, it focuses on energy applications. But nanofibers could be useful for any device that needs to maximize the ratio of surface area to volume, Velásquez-García says. Capacitors — circuit components that store electricity — are one example, because capacitance scales with surface area. The electrodes used in fuel cells are another, because the greater the electrodes' surface area, the more efficiently they catalyze the reactions that drive the cell. But almost any chemical process can benefit from increasing catalysts' surface area, and increasing the surface area of artificial-organ scaffolds gives cells more points at which to adhere.

Another promising application of nanofibers is in meshes so fine that they allow only nanoscale particles to pass through. The example in the new paper again comes from energy research: the membranes that separate the halves of a fuel cell. But similar meshes could be used to filter water. Such applications, Velásquez-García says, depend crucially on consistency in the fiber diameter, another respect in which the new technique offers advantages over its predecessors.

Existing electrospinning techniques generally rely on tiny nozzles, through which the dissolved polymer is forced. Variations in operating conditions and in the shape of the nozzles can cause large variation in the fiber diameter, and the nozzles' hydraulics mean that they can't be packed as tightly together. A few manufacturers have developed fiber-spinning devices that use electrostatic fields, but their emitters are made using much cruder processes than the chip-manufacturing techniques that the MTL researchers exploited. As a consequence, not only are the arrays of tips much less dense, but the devices consume more power.

"The electrostatic field is enhanced if the tip diameter is smaller," Velásquez-García says. "If you have tips of, say, millimeter diameter, then if you apply enough voltage, you can trigger the ionization of the liquid and spin fibers. But if you can make them sharper, then you need a lot less voltage to achieve the same result."

The use of microfabrication technologies not only allowed the MTL researchers to pack their cones more tightly and sharpen their tips, but it also gave them much more precise control of the structure of the cones' surfaces. Indeed, the sides of the cones have a nubby texture that helps the cones wick up the fluid in which the polymer is dissolved. In ongoing experiments, the researchers have also covered the cones with what Velásquez-García describes as a "wool" of carbon nanotubes, which should work better with some types of materials.

Indeed, Velásquez-García says, his group's results depend not only on the design of the emitters themselves, but on a precise balance between the structure of the cones and their textured coating, the strength of the electrostatic field, and the composition of the fluid bath in which the cones are immersed.

The MIT researchers' work was funded in part by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Written by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Caroline McCall
MIT News Office
E:
T: 617-253-1682

Copyright © MIT

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Quantum manipulation power for quantum information processing gets a boost: Improving the efficiency of quantum heat engines involves reducing the number of photons in a cavity, ultimately impacting quantum manipulation power October 14th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Possible Futures

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Nanomedicine

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Present Preclinical Data on ARO-AAT at The Liver Meeting(R) October 10th, 2017

Arrowhead to Present at Chardan Gene Therapy Conference October 3rd, 2017

'CRISPR-Gold' fixes Duchenne muscular dystrophy mutation in mice October 3rd, 2017

Discoveries

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Injecting electrons jolts 2-D structure into new atomic pattern: Berkeley Lab study is first to show potential of energy-efficient next-gen electronic memory October 13th, 2017

The secret to improving liquid crystal's mechanical performance: Better lubricating properties of lamellar liquid crystals could stem from changing the mobility of their structural dislocations by adding nanoparticles October 13th, 2017

Rice U. lab surprised by ultraflat magnets: Researchers create atom-thick alloys with unanticipated magnetic properties October 13th, 2017

Announcements

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Spinning strands hint at folding dynamics: Rice University lab uses magnetic beads to model microscopic proteins, polymers October 17th, 2017

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Military

Long nanotubes make strong fibers: Rice University researchers advance characterization, purification of nanotube wires and films October 17th, 2017

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

On the road to fire-free, lithium-ion batteries made with asphalt October 12th, 2017

A dash of gold improves microlasers: The precious metal provides a 'nano' solution for improving disease detection, defense and cybersecurity applications October 9th, 2017

Environment

Single ‘solitons’ promising for optical technologies October 9th, 2017

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

High-tech electronics made from autumn leaves: New process converts biomass waste into useful electronic devices August 30th, 2017

Nanoparticles pollution rises 30 percent when flex-fuel cars switch from bio to fossil: Study carried out in São Paulo, home to the world's largest flex fuel urban fleet, shows increase of ultrafine particulate matter when ethanol prices rose and consumption fell August 28th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project