ELECTROSPINNING & ELECTROSPRAYING APPLICATIONS
The versatility of the electrospinning process in terms of the materials that can be processed and the structures that can be achieved has generated a great deal of interest within academia since the 1990s and more recently has started to be exploited by industry, in fields as diverse as filtration, regenerative medicine, and energy generation.
Electrospinning has been shown to have great potential in many areas of the biomedical field, such as for creating tissue engineering scaffolds and regenerative medicine implants, where the fibrous structure (random or aligned) can be made to closely mimic that of native tissues within the body to encourage natural cell behavior. The high surface area and small pore size of electrospun materials also make them excellent candidates for wound care applications, providing effective conformability, hemostatic performance and barrier to infection, whilst allowing the passage of fluids and gases to maintain optimum conditions for wound healing.
Electrospinning and electrospraying are excellent technologies for the encapsulation of bioactives, such as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). The room-temperature process ensures that thermally sensitive compounds are not degraded and the variety of different encapsulant materials and fiber/particle structures (e.g. core-shell) allows for the design of targeted release profiles. Additionally, the solid suspension of hydrophobic APIs within high surface area electrospun or electrosprayed materials greatly increases bioavailability compared with other delivery forms.
Electrospinning and electrospraying has been gaining importance in the cosmetic field for the encapsulation and protection of sensitive bioactives, for improving formulation stability, and for enabling novel application forms such as face and under-eye masks. The high surface area of electrospun fibrous materials allows for immediate dissolution onto wet skin and effective delivery of the encapsulated bioactives without the need for emulsifiers, stabilizers or other non-desirable ingredients associated with cream formulations.
Electrospinning and electrospraying have a high encapsulation efficiency and provide effective preservation of sensitive bioactives, such as nutraceutical food ingredients. The low temperature process is particularly important for the encapsulation of ingredients such as omega-3 oils, which oxidize quickly and probiotic bacteria, which can be killed by other drying methods.
Food packaging is also very important to maintain food safety and control. Electrospun fibers can be used for increasing barrier performance of packaging films and for imparting smart functionality.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL
Electrospinning has also been shown to be an effective process of the fabrication of components in a number of energy storage and generation applications, such as for semi-permeable separation membranes and support structures in fuel cells, and batteries, and as high surface area substrates for dye sensitized solar cells. The high surface area of electrospun materials also lends itself to sensing applications, increasing sensitivity and selectivity of the sensor.
Air and liquid filtration and separation are the most established applications of electrospun materials. The small fiber diameter and pore size made possible by electrospinning result in a high filtration efficiency, enabling the removal of smaller particles than conventional filtration materials. Functionalization of electrospun fibers also enables selective removal of target compounds from a fluid flow.
Electrospun fiber membranes and coatings can impart exceptional water barrier performance whilst the open porosity enables high levels of breathability. The ability to incorporate antimicrobial compounds or other functionalization has also attracted interest for protective clothing e.g. in military/defense applications.