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Recent Nanofiber Technologies, Mass Production and its Applications

B-S. Kim, K. Watanabe, N. Kimura, I-S. Kim
Shinshu University, JP

Keywords: nanofiber, electrospinning


Many of nonwoven industries have tried to develop or search for the latest technologies that could have applications in the new performance products. One of the technological innovations in nonwoven and textile industries is electrostatic spinning or electrospinning, which is the most convenient and scalable technique for nanofiber production [1-3]. Electrospinning is a highly versatile method to process solutions or melts, mainly of polymers, into continuous fibers with diameters ranging from a few micrometers to a few nanometers. Electrospinning gained substantial academic attention in the 1990s, which was partially initiated by the activities of the Reneker group [4]. This technique appears to be straightforward, but is rather depends on solution and processing parameters. One reason for the fascination with the subject is the combination of both fundamental and application-oriented research from different science and engineering disciplines. These efforts usually target complex and highly functional systems, which could certainly be applied on a commercial level. Electrospun nanofibers may have broad application in composite nonwoven structures in traditional markets. Electrospun nanofibers are therefore being considered for a variety of applications where their unique properties contribute to product functionality [5-8]. These properties include high surface area, small diameter of the fiber, potentials to incorporate active chemistry, filtration properties, high permeability, and low basis weight. Specifically, the potentials to include active chemistry in the nanofiber webs provide additional opportunities for functionality. Accordingly, the researchers are currently exploring additional nanofiber composite designs for several new uses including providing a highly permeable aerosol barrier in protective gear such as facemasks, medical gowns and drapes, and protective clothing applications. Despite of the potential mentioned above, the application of nanofibers has been limited due to its poor mechanical properties and the difficulty for mass production because of its peculiarly low process throughput. The innovative modifications of the basic spinning apparatus and methodology used in electrospinning allow a wide range of fiber and mat morphologies to be produced, which include novel electrode arrangements, the use of AC voltage to drive the process, reactive electrospinning, unusual collector geometries, unique tip designs, vibrating tip designs and the use of different spinning environments. Although the full range of applications that best exploit these new developments are yet to be developed, the emerging innovative applications of nanofibers in biomedical, sensor, electronic, and other areas will likely to be enabled or enhanced by sthese recent advances in several key techniques. This study includes recent results of technical researches and developments, mass production system, and possible applications for several industries.
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