D. Brennan, K. Shirvani, V. Beachley
Keywords: electrospinning, polymer, nanofiber, polyacrylonitrile
Summary:Carbon nanofibers have great potential in developing high-performance materials for applications in aerospace, automotive, and construction; because of their high mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, thermal properties and chemical stability. However, common methods of carbon fiber manufacture are often low throughput o limited to the micro-scale. Electrospinning offers a simple method of producing nano-scale carbon fiber precursors from polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which is used in the production of 90% of the worlds carbon materials. However, the mechanical strength of electrospun nanofibers is inferior to the properties of microfibers produced with conventional spinning methods. A new design capable of simultaneously electrospinning and drawing fibers in a continuous process is employed to create aligned nanofibers, with polymer chains oriented along the fiber axis. We observe that the mechanical strength of the carbon fiber precursor increases systematically with increased draw ratio. We hypothesize that carbon fibers produced from drawn precursor PAN fibers will have enhanced mechanical and electrical properties.