Choose a Polymer
Choose a polymer (e.g., poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA),
polycaprolactone (PCL), polystyrene (PS) or nylon) based on
your specifications (e.g., biodegradable, thermoplastic or
cross-linkable) and a solvent of that polymer. Choose
suitable personal protective equipment based on your
Select a substrate based on your application (e.g., glass,
plastic, metal or silicon wafer).
Choose a Collector
Choose the collector geometry based on your specifications.
Random fibers can be collected on stationary plates. Aligned
fibers can be collected on rapidly rotating wheels, drums or
rods, or on parallel plates.
The collector must be conductive and must remain isolated
from its axel in such a way that it can be grounded without
also grounding adjacent objects, the table top, etc.
Approximate the Critical Entanglement Concentration
Prepare several candidate polymer concentrations (e.g., 4,
10, 15, 20, 30 wt%) and choose a concentration that flows
(the solution should be a viscous liquid but not a gel) to
Set up the electrospinning apparatus
Load the syringe pump and set the pump speed such that any
bead of solution wiped from the tip is immediately replaced.
Ground the collector and clip the high voltage wire to the
conductor plate (a small square of conductive material such
as aluminum foil through which the syringe tip protrudes).
Start the wheel spinning.
Make sure the power supply is set to zero before turning it
Observe the stream
Ramp voltage up slowly and watch the bead of the solution at
the needle tip.
Adjust the voltage to obtain a long and steady stream. If a
steady stream cannot be obtained, adjust the polymer
Troubleshooting - the Stream:
Trouble viewing the stream
Use a dark matte backdrop and place a unidirectional light
source (such as a flashlight) between the viewer and the
Dripping from the syringe tip
If the polymer solution is dripping straight down with no
attraction to the wheel, make sure the conductor plate is
making contact with the needle tip and that the collector is
making contact with ground.
If the drop of polymer solution at the syringe tip is
leaning in the direction of the wheel but is not forming a
stream, increase the voltage. The quality of the stream can
be adjusted by varying the distance and the voltage until a
steady stream is visible.
Large globs at the syringe tip
when the polymer solution begins to collect and harden at
the tip of the needle, swipe the glob away with a paper
towel attached to a non-conductive stick.
Oscillating or 'wagging' streams
when the stream is wagging up and down rapidly turn down the
voltage or increase the distance between the syringe tip and
the wheel. If the stream continues to wag use a higher
concentration of polymer or add a little solvent with a
Short or discontinuous streams
visible steady streams making observable contact with the
wheel set at a high rotational velocity yield the highest
quality of uniformity and alignment. When the stream is
short and discontinuous, increasing the polymer solution,
adding more slow evaporating solvent, and adjusting the
voltage will improve the length and steadiness of the
Troubleshooting - Fiber Morphology
when beads are discovered in the fibers, increase the
polymer solution and make sure the conductor plate is making
continuous contact with the needle and that the grounded
wire brush is making continuous contact with the wheel.
Ribbons and bleeding fibers
when fibers are forming as ribbons or are bleeding together,
use a higher concentration of polymer or a solvent with a
higher rate of evaporation (more volatile).
Curlicue or wavy fibers
when fibers are forming waves or curlicues increase the
wheel speed or move the needle tip further from the
collector. Also, check that the conductor plate and
collector are not vibrating.
if pores are desired, use a rapidly evaporating solvent. If
pores are not desired, try adding a small amount of
co-solvent that is less volatile than the major solvent.
when the collector is moving at a low RPM or at rest, the
alignment quality is poor. Increase the alignment by
increasing the speed of the wheel.