G.R. Ziegler, L. Kong
The Pennsylvania State University,
Keywords: biopolymer, nano-fiber
Summary:With the development of the petroleum-based economy came synthetic fibers, which have replaced bio-based fibers to a large extent in textiles, engineering, and medical applications to name but a few. However, our excessive dependence on them has economic and environmental consequences. Catalyzed by the advancement in nanotechnology and a growing interest in bio-based materials, active research has been undergoing to develop nano-fibers from a variety of biopolymers. Proteins and polysaccharides are the two main categories of biopolymers that provide technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness for fiber making. Structural proteins, e.g. collagen, gelatin, silk, etc., and numerous polysaccharides, e.g. cellulose and its derivatives, chitin, chitosan, alginate, pullulan, etc., have been processed into micro- and nano-fibers. Their uses as medical dressings and tissue engineering scaffolds have been under development and evaluation. Our research has focused on developing starch-based micro- and nano-scale fibers for biomedical and food packaging applications. An electro-wet-spinning method was developed to fabricate pure starch fibers from high amylose starches. In order to enhance the mechanical strength and compliance of the starch fibers, starch/nanocellulose composite fibers were developed. In addition to this, the starch fibers were crosslinked by glutaraldehyde to improve their water stability. The starch fibers can be loaded with antimicrobials, e.g. iodine, the release of which can be triggered by enzymatic degradation of starch.