Polymer Science Faculty Research


Mechanical Properties of Nanofibers Revealed by Interaction with Streams of Air

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Electrospun nanofibers were captured directly between two steel rods that functioned as the “grips” of the tensile testing apparatus. Tension was applied to the selected nanofiber by displacing one of the grips at controlled rates or in steps. The stress was revealed by the deflection of a nanofiber, caused by the drag force from a broad stream of air, which flowed perpendicular to the fiber at a known velocity. The deflected position and shape of the nanofiber was observed with a light arrangement optimized to produce bright glints that were photographed with a camcorder. Image analysis of the catenary shapes of the nanofibers was combined with scanning electron microscopy measurements of the diameter of the ends of the tested fibers to evaluate the mechanical properties. Measurements of properties, including tensile strength, tensile modulus and elongation-to-break, of thin electrospun fibers were obtained on six chemically different polymers: nylon 6, poly(ethylene oxide), polyvinylpyrrolidone, poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline), Tecoflex® and Tecophilic® polyurethanes. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of tensile data on single polyvinylpyrrolidone and poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline) nanofibers. These soft nanofibers with low strain to break rarely survive the sample loading procedures where single fiber manipulation is involved. This method complements difficult mechanical measurements of polymer nanofibers and low strength microfibers made on miniature mechanical testing devices. Mechanical hysteresis curves were attained that show the recoverable and non-recoverable tensile deformation of PEO, nylon and Tecophilic® polyurethane fibers.

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