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Functionalization of electrospun fiber

Functionalization allows the introduction of other properties to a single material nanofiber. A material with superior mechanical property or chemical stability may be incorporated with other desirable capability such as anti-bacterial, biocompatibility, catalytic or chemical sensing. The ability to introduce another functional feature to the nanofiber will significantly increase its performance and versatility to tailor to specific applications. Although it is possible to synthesize polymer with the desired functional capability prior to electrospinning, this article(s) shall focus on adding other functional capability during or after electrospinning.

As shown in Table 1, there are numerous methods of functionalization with varying degree of versatility. The functionalization methods may be used together to create multi-functional capability. Each method also has its own benefits and limitations and these have to be considered depending on the specific application. In some cases, a perceived limitation of the method may be suitable for another application. For example, leaching of material from a blended polymer may be undesirable if it is unintentional but this characteristic makes it suitable for drug release application.

Table 1. Functionalization Method and its usage.
Functionalization method Location Improve mechanical properties *Reactive / Functional groups Drug release **Material Chemistry
Blending Bulk Yes Yes Yes Yes
Plasma treatment Surface - Yes - Yes
UV grafting Surface - Yes - Yes
Electron Beam Radiation grafting Surface - Yes - Yes
Wet chemical treatment Surface - Yes - Yes
Adhesion Surface - - - Yes
Direct covalent bonding Surface - Yes - Yes
Layer-by-layer Surface - Yes Yes Yes
Multi-components electrospinning (eg. core-shell) Core/Surface Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sol-gel coating followed by sintering Surface - - - Yes
Chemical vapor deposition Surface - - - Yes
Inorganic catalytic deposition Surface - - - Yes
Mineralization Surface Yes - -
Inorganic catalytic deposition Surface - - - Yes
Sputtering Surface - - - Yes
*Reactive / Functional groups: eg. carboxyl or amino group, for further bonding of other molecules
**Material chemistry: Addition of secondary group(s) to the principal fiber material

In some instances, a combination of functionalizing steps are carried out to achieve the final product with the desired properties and functions. The ease of incorporating other substances into the polymer solution to be electrospun has enabled researchers to create novel composite materials. Huang et al (2019) was able to construct a novel poly(vinyl alcohol)/poly(acrylic acid)/Fe3O4/MXene@Ag nanoparticle composite nanofiber membrane with electrospinning for wastewater treatment. Electrospinning was first carried out to produce poly(vinyl alcohol)/poly(acrylic acid)/Fe3O4/MXene nanofibers. The composite nanofibers were subsequently stirred in AgNO3 solution so that the Ag ions adhered and reduced to spherical Ag nanoparticles on the nanofibers.

Published date: 12 November 2013
Last updated: 09 April 2019

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