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Inspired by a cotton candy machine, engineers put a new spin on creating tiny nanofibers
Date:5/25/2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 24, 2010 Hailed as a "cross between a high-speed centrifuge and a cotton candy machine," bioengineers at Harvard have developed a new, practical technology for fabricating tiny nanofibers.

The reference by lead author Mohammad Reza Badrossamay to the fairground treat of spun sugar is deliberate, as the device literallyand just as easilyspins, stretches, and pushes out 100 nanometer-diameter polymer-based threads using a rotating drum and nozzle.

The invention, reported in the May 24 online edition of Nano Letters, could be a boon for industry, with potential applications ranging from artificial organs and tissue regeneration to clothing and air filters. The researchers have filed a patent on their discovery.

"This is a vastly superior method to making nanofibers as compared to typical methods, with production output many times greater," says co-author Kit Parker, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Applied Science and Associate Professor of Bioengineering in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); a core faculty member of the Wyss Institue for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard; and member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "Our technique will be highly desirable to industry, as the simple machines could easily bring nanofiber production into any laboratory. In effect, with this technique we can mainstream nanotextiles."

By contrast, the most common method of creating nanofibers is through electrospinning, or sending a high voltage electric change into a droplet of polymer liquid to draw out long wisps of nanoscale threads. While effective, electrospinning offers limited control and low output of the desired fibers.

The Harvard researchers turned to a simpler solution, using rotary jet spinning. Quickly feeding and then rotating the polymer material inside a reservoir atop a controllable motor offers more control and greater yield.

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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

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