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Nanowebs go green

December 8th, 2014 / By: / Feature

“Green” electrospun nanowebs maintain breathability after heat crosslinking. That was the message Seshadri Ramkumar delivered while standing in for Uday Turaga’s presentation at Advanced Textiles Expo in October 2014. As part of an education program featuring functional and nano technologies for industrial fabrics, Ramkumar presented the results of their research, titled “Breathable Standalone Poly (vinyl alcohol) Nanowebs.”

Can electrospun webs be created without organic solvents and without losing breathability or strength? The research presented by Ramkumar asked this question and the results presented indicated clearly that the answer is “yes.” By developing a homopolymer electrospun poly (vinyl alcohol) (PVA) nanoweb, the research team from Texas Tech University was able to evaluate the breathability, porosity and tensile strength of both treated and untreated nanowebs. Not only was there no significant effect of heat crosslinking on breathability, but the size of the pores in the nanowebs increased, allowing greater porosity of the substrate. The tensile strength of the nanowebs also increased slightly after the heat treatment.

By using a biodegradable solvent for the starting fiber, the team was able to create the webs using an eco-friendly electro-spinning process. Most nanofiber webs are spun with organic solvents. By using a doping solution of 12 percent PVA, a hydrophilic polymer, for the electro-spinning, the nanowebs were created without the use of organic solvents.

Breathability of nanowebs enables their use in a number of next-to-skin applications and is vitally important in medical, hygienic and smart textile applications, such as wound bandages and protective clothing liners. The increased porosity in the nanowebs is pivotal when using the scaffolds for cell and tissue culture, Ramkumar said.

Alisha Seifert is senior production editor at IFAI.