Electrospinning works by ejecting liquid through a needle at the end of a cone. By applying an electric field, interaction between the charges in the liquid and the field provides the tensile force that would be exerted by spindles and reels in conventional spinning. Meanwhile the surface tension of the liquid – if it is sufficient – stops the ejected liquid breaking up into droplets. The result is long, extremely narrow fibres. While the textile industry has used the process since the 1930s, its potential for producing fibres with nanoscale diameters only came to light in the 1990s.
Like any other spun yarn, electrospun nanofibres can be woven, and the resulting nanoporous fabric can have huge advantages. Porous materials allow diffusion of molecules – useful for a number of applications, among them drug delivery. In 2006 Pattama Taepaiboon, Uracha Rungsardthong and Pitt Supaphol in Thailand were first to publish on the potential of electrospun hydrogel polymers for drug delivery through the skin. Their study of drug-loaded poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) electrospun mats not only showed that the chemical integrity of the drugs was unimpeded by electrospinning, but provided insights into the effect of drug solubility on the morphology of mat formed, as well as on the drug release characteristics. Ten years later use of electrospun mats for drug delivery remains a hot topic of research.Nanotechweb: Electrospinning forms a common thread in new technologies Anna Demming