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Laboratory Setup Considerations

Lab scale electrospinning setup

There are a number of companies that supply electrospinning setup especially for use in laboratory. Even for lab setup, there is the basic setup to be used on a bench-top or a stand-alone setup. Choosing the right setup should not be base on price alone as there are several other important criteria to look into. While the bench-top setup is much cheaper than a stand-alone setup, it generally lacks safety features that can be found in the later.

1. Safety
The key consideration for the setup will be the amount of safety it provides to the user. For electrospinning, the main hazard comes from the solvent and the high voltage used. During electrospinning, it is common to have the solution clogging the tip. Sometimes, it is not an option to stop the spinning process to clean the clogged tip. In this case, the machine must be capable of removing the clog while the high voltage is still on without endangering the user. The second hazard is the solvent vapor. During electrospinning, there will be solvent vapor in the surrounding. It is vital that the user is not exposed to the solvent vapor and the vapor is continuously removed from the spinning chamber. This will prevent build up of vapor which is a fire hazard and not to mention that the resultant nanofibrous mesh may also be affected by the excess vapor in the surrounding. While the vapor is being removed from the chamber, the air flow closest to the electrospinning jet should be relatively calm. This is crucial for spinning aligned fibers or in precision electrospinning.

2. Ease of use
Basic controls to adjust the electrospinning parameters must be in place. The setup should allow for the adjustment of,

Loading and unloading of the stock solution should also be simple and straightforward. At the lab level, it is common to use different solution so the accessories to contain the stock solution must be easy to find and replace. One that uses commonly available generic syringes will be preferred.

3. Maintenance
During electrospinning, it is common to see the fibers depositing on surfaces outside of the designated collector especially when the spinning duration is long (a few hours). Cleaning of the spinning chamber must be easy and there should not be many hard to reach grooves. A unique challenge in a lab base machine is that it may potentially be exposed to a huge range of chemicals and solvents. These can be organic solvents that attack plastic coating or acid that attacks metal surfaces. While preventing vapor buildup in the chamber may increase the lifespan of the machine, it is important that the material used in the chamber is able to tolerate such conditions.

4. Accessories and versatility
For a complete electrospinning machine, some commonly used accessories should be available. This includes the drum collector, disk collector and the tube collector. The collector should also be able to move in at least one horizontal axis to enable even distribution of the fibers.

5. Technical knowledge/support
For beginners, it is important that there is guidance on the electrospinning process. Selection of the right polymer characteristic and optimizing spinning condition can be a challenge for someone not familiar with the process. Therefore, it will be useful if the supplier is able to provide some technical support and advise to troubleshoot any difficulties in getting fibers.

Published date: 30 Sep 2012
Last updated: -


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