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Electrospinning is an efficient technique to produce continuous polymeric nanofibres. This process involves stretching a polymer solution or melt under a strong electrical field to form dry and fine filaments, with diameters ranging from tens to hundreds of nanometres. The electrospinning process can be used for different polymers and polymer blends, and operates at room temperature so that biological compounds can be loaded into the electrospun fibres if necessary.
Figure 1: (left) Natural extracellular matrix structure (Copyright Molecular Cell Biology, Scientific American Books), (right) Electrospun nanofibres.
The electrospun nanofibres are usually collected as non-woven mats. These mats have high surface-to-volume (or mass) ratio and high porosity with well-interconnected pores. On microscopic scale, the electrospun nanofibre mat has a very similar structure to natural extracellular matrix (ECM) (Fig. 1). This makes the nanofibres have enormous potential in biomedical area as scaffolding material for tissue engineering (bone, cartilage blood vessel regeneration). Also the electrospun nanofibres can be used in wound dressing, drug release control and biosensors and other non-medical areas.
At Deakin, we have conducted a program of researches on studying the electrospinning process, improving nanofibre uniformity, preparing nanofibres from a wide range of polymer materials. We have also developed a new method to electrospin bi-component nanofibres. We are at present exploring new applications of electrospun nanofibres in a variety of areas, including biomedical, defense and water treatment and filtration.