Skin, cartilage and the cytoskeleton of a cell are all made up of networks of fibres with diameters approximately one millionth of a metre or less. Electrospinning is a technique that can produce fibres at this scale. A very high voltage (~15 kV) is applied between a polymer solution and an earthed metal plate ―very fine fibres are pulled from the polymer solution and deposited on the plate. Electrospinning has been around for over 100 years, but has only recently attracted significant attention, due to its ability to recreate the fibrous networks found in so many natural materials.
This photograph shows a network of electrospun fibres, made of polycaprolactone (PCL), a polymer frequently used in medical applications. The fibres shown here have an average diameter of 1 µm. The electrospun fibres are being created to investigate how fibrous networks behave mechanically. This should lead to an improved understanding of how fibrous networks like these would behave as tissue replacements, and how the fibrous networks in natural materials contribute to their remarkable properties.”