Micromechanics of ultra-toughened electrospun PMMA/PEO fibres as revealed by in-situ tensile testing in an electron microscope
CITATION: Andersson, R. L. et al. 2014. Micromechanics of ultra-toughened electrospun PMMA/PEO fibres as revealed by in-situ tensile testing in an electron microscope. Scientific Reports, 4, Article number: 6335, doi:10.1038/srep06335.
The original publication is available at http://www.nature.com/srep
A missing cornerstone in the development of tough micro/nano fibre systems is an understanding of the fibre failure mechanisms, which stems from the limitation in observing the fracture of objects with dimensions one hundredth of the width of a hair strand. Tensile testing in the electron microscope is herein adopted to reveal the fracture behaviour of a novel type of toughened electrospun poly(methyl methacrylate)/poly(ethylene oxide) fibre mats for biomedical applications. These fibres showed a toughness more than two orders of magnitude greater than that of pristine PMMA fibres. The in-situ microscopy revealed that the toughness were not only dependent on the initial molecular alignment after spinning, but also on the polymer formulation that could promote further molecular orientation during the formation of micro/nano-necking. The true fibre strength was greater than 150 MPa, which was considerably higher than that of the unmodified PMMA (17 MPa). This necking phenomenon was prohibited by high aspect ratio cellulose nanocrystal fillers in the ultra–tough fibres, leading to a decrease in toughness by more than one order of magnitude. The reported necking mechanism may have broad implications also within more traditional melt–spinning research.