|FESEM micrograph of the electrospun POM fibers. Click to enlarge. Courtesy of the American Chemical Society|
Researchers at Tsinghua University in China reported the first successful electrospinning of polyoxymethylene (POM)—a type of plastic widely used in automobiles and electronics due to its properties such as good strength, stiffness, abrasion, and chemical resistance.
The process, which uses an electric charge to turn polymers into thin fibers in the presence of electricity, produced plastic mats that show very high elongation about 10 times that of the original bulk tensile bar and could lead to new uses for the plastic, they say. The study is scheduled for publication in the 10 June issue of the ACS journal Macromolecules.
POM, while known for its metal-like hardness, light weight, and resistance to chemicals, is relatively brittle, limiting its applications. Although many different types of plastics have been electrospun into fibers with extended uses and properties, researchers have been unable to spin POM into fibers until now, according to Zhao-Xia Guo and colleagues.
Electrospinning is a recently explored simple and versatile fabrication technique for producing nano- to microscale fibers. The electrospun fiber mats possess a number of characteristics such as high specific surface area, high aspect ratio, and high porosity as a result of random deposition of the fibers, which allow a wide range of potential applications such as optoelectronics, sensor technology, catalysis, filtration, and medicine. The mechanical properties of the electrospun fibers or mats are usually different from those of the corresponding bulk materials.
They report that POM could be turned into nano-sized fibers after first dissolving it in HFIP (1,1,1,3,3,3-hexafluoro-2-propanol), which is frequently used in electrospinning of natural biopolymers such as collagen and chitin, and then undergoing electrospinning.
The process resulted in POM mats with improved ductility, high porosity, and high surface area. Such features could extend the plastic’s uses to a wide range of industrial, electronic and medical applications, the researchers say.
Jian-Wei Lu, Zhan-Peng Zhang, Xiang-Zhong Ren, Yi-Zhang Chen, Jian Yu, and Zhao-Xia Guo (2008) High-Elongation Fiber Mats by Electrospinning of Polyoxymethylene, Macromolecules, doi: 10.1021/ma702881k