Production of hollow fibers by co-electrospinning of cellulose acetate
Thesis (MScEng (Process Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.
The study concerns the use of the electrospinning technique for the formation of cellulose acetate hollow nanofibers. These hollow fibers are used to manufacture hollow fiber membranes. Important properties that should be inherent to these hollow-nanofibers include excellent permeability and separation characteristics, and long useful life. They have potential applications in filtration, reverse osmosis, and the separation of liquids and gases. It is apparent from the available literature on electrospinning and co-electrospinning that the diameter and the morphology of the resulting fibers are significantly influenced by variations in the system and process parameters, which include the solution concentration, solvent volatility, solution viscosity, surface tension and the conductivity of the spinning solution. The materials used include cellulose acetate (CA) (concentration = 11~14 wt %), (feed rate = 1~3 ml/h), acetone:dioxane (2:1) and mineral oil (feed rate = 0.5~1 ml/h) with core and shell linear velocity of 2 and 0.7 mm/min respectively. These materials were used as received without further purification. The co-electrospinning setup used comprised a compound spinneret, consisting of two concentric small-diameter capillary tubes/needles, one located inside another (core-shell/co-axial design). The internal and external diameters of the inside and outside needles were 0.3 and 1.2 mm respectively (0.3 mm shell/core gap space). The liquids CA (shell) and mineral oil (core) are pumped to the coaxial needle by a syringe pump, forming a compound droplet at the tip of the needle. A high voltage source is used to apply a potential of several kilovolts over the electrospinning distance. One electrode is placed into the spinning solution and the other oppositely charged (or neutral) electrode attached to a conductive collector. If the charge build up reaches approximately 15 kV the charged compound droplet, (poorly conductive polymer solution) deforms into a conical structure called a Taylor cone. On further increasing, the charge at the Taylor cone to some critical value (unique to each polymer system) the surface tension of the compound Taylor cone is broken and a core-shell jet of polymer solution ejects from the apex of the Taylor cone. This jet is linear over a small distance, and then deviates in a course of violent whipping from bending instabilities brought about by repulsive charges existing along the jet length. The core-shell jet is stretched and solvent is evaporated and expelled, resulting in the thinning and alignment of the fiber. Ultimately dry (most solvent having been removed) submicron fibers are collected in alignment form in a simple collector design (water bath). The shell to core solution flow rate ratio was chosen according to the parameter response of shell-core diameter of the resulting fibers in order to achieve an optimal hollow structure after removal of the mineral oil core. The mineral oil of the dry collected core-shell fibers is removed by immersion in octane. The aforementioned response is determined by measurement of core-shell diameters using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The obtained results showed that the ability of the spinning solution to be electrospun was directly dependent on its concentration and the feed rate of the spinning solution and also parameters such as the spinning distance and type of solvents used. The preferable polymer solution concentration is 14 wt %, shell feed rate of 3 ml/hr, core feed rate of 0.5 ml/hr (2 and 0.7 mm/s core and shell linear velocity respectively), applied voltage of 15 KV, spinning distance of 8 cm and coaxial spinnerets having internal diameters of 0.3 mm and 1.2 mm core and shell needles respectively (0.3 mm shell/core gap space) have been found to make uniform cellulose acetate hollow fibers with an average inside and outside diameter of approximately 495 and 1266 nm, respectively.