International Conference on Electrospinning

29 April 2015

On 5 December 2013, The Hooke Room at the Institute of Physics was packed with 86 delegates for the International Conference on Electrospinning: Principles, Practice and Possibilities.

2

It was indeed an international event with 77 papers drawn from 22 countries including Australia, New Zealand, USA and China. In fact some potential participants were turned away due to the constraint of space and the poster session with some 40 posters was relocated to the adjacent building of the Royal Institute of British Architects. A feature of the conference was the strong participation of industry in terms of both presentations and delegates.

Professor Seeram Ramakrishna of the National University of Singapore gave the opening presentation is some style, providing an excellent overview of the opportunities for electrospun nanofibers in energy, food, medicine and engineering. This was followed by contributed papers on the electrospinning process including the novel use of a pulsed electric field presented by Professor Y Aliyev of the Institute of Combustion Problems, Kazakhstan which resulted in micrometre length fibres. Raffaella Casasola from Loughborough University delivered a presentation focused on the Effect of chain entanglements on electrospun poly lactic acid (PLA) fibres. The morning session was completed with a presentation on '3D and nanoscale investigations of wetting between organic liquids and electrospun nanofibre networks' from Ursula Stachewicz, Nanoforce Technology Ltd., UK.

Lunch was an excellent buffet style meal to facilitate continued networking and viewing the exhibition. The afternoon session kicked off with an impressive invited presentation on 'Polymer network in a strong extensional flow - A study of the electrospinning jet' from Professor Eyal Zussman, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Israel. Professor Zussman presented results using radiography of in flight electrospinning in the region just below the needle. By quantitative analysis of the absorption, Professor Zussman was able to evaluate the composition of the jet and show that there was a high concentration of polymer in the core of the fibre. Subsequent NSOM measurements showed that the molecules in the shell of the fibre were aligned normal to the fibre axis compared with those in the core which were aligned parallel to the fibre axis.

This presentation stimulated much discussion. The following presentations continued the theme of the electrospinning process. Q Pham of Arsenal Medical, USA, showed how throughput could be greatly enhanced using a slit-s urface electrospinning technique. The resultant core-sheath fibers were evalulated for biomedical applications. F Moucka, J E Purkinje University, Czech Republic gave a presentation of 'A Molecular insight into the NanoSpider technology from computer simulations' which showed that jets could be formed from water alone.

Professor Dietmar Hutchmacher of Queensland University of Technology, Australia gave an excellent invited high tech presentation on an emergibg high techn topic invited on 'Melt Electrospinning - The return of a forgotten Polymer Processing Technology' which illustrated the precision of control of placment of electrospun fibres with much promise in biomedical applications. A Kotzianova from Contipro Biotech s.r.o., Czech Republic showed how imaging Raman spectroscopy could be used to evaluate the homogeneity of nanofibrous matts.

A Arinstein from the Technion ˗ Israel Institute of Technology, Israel presented experiment work on 'An Anomaly in temperature response of electrospun polyurethane nanofibers'. M Roso of University of Padova, Italy presented work developing a new application for electrospun nanofibres for the control of volatile organic compounds based on Graphene/TiO2 based catalysts on nanostructured membranes.

The lecture programme was brought to a close by an informative and entertaining lecture from Nick Tucker of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd, New Zealand on the history of the science and technology of electrospinning from 1600 to 1995. The talk highlighted some of the personalities in the early science associated with electrospinning.

The evening programme was centered on a very active poster session held in the Wren Room of the Royal Institute of British of British Architects with a drinks reception and buffet dinner.

The second day of the conference started with a fascinating lecture from Paul Dalton from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia on the topic 3D Printing using Melt Electrospinning. The lecture showed the considerable potential for the technique which allowed precise control of the assembly of nanoscale fibres in a manner akin to fused deposition modelling but with very much finer fibres. Dr Dalton emphasised the continuity from conventional 3-d printing to melt electrospinning.

Eric Kny, the Chair of the COST action MP1206 gave delegates a brief introduction to the COST action and the opportunities available for net working. The IOP had been the location for a workshop for the COST action earlier in the week.

The conference then divided in to two parallel sessions. One focused on biomedical and tissue engineering application and the second focused on a broader range of applications.

The broader applications were clearly demonstrated by the presentations from Jose Lagaron from CSIC Spain on food packaging and Vi Sencadas, University of Minho, Portugal on 'Tailoring electroactive response of poly(vinylidene fluoride) electrospun membranes for tissue engineering applications' Several presentations were made on the topic of tissue engineering including V Guarino, IMCB/CNR, Italy on 'Highly aligned electrospun platforms for skeletal muscle differentiation' which showed the high level of control afforded by the electrospun fibres with regard to cell differentiation. The lecture of T Kowalczyk, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland on 'Electrospun nanofibers applied for tissue engineering and medical therapies' was notable in the range of different medical situations covered underlining the value of electrospun fibres as scaffolds for tissue engineering. Other application of note were their use for enhanced magnetic resonance imaging presented by M Jin, University College London School of Pharmacy , UK and antibacterial dressings using Polysaccharide based nanofibres containing curcumin presented by A Hébraud, ICPEES / University of Strasbourg, France.

The afternoon session started with a presentation on the challenges of preparing nanoscale fibres containing nanoparticulates from Dr Fred Davis at the Universsity of Reading. He gave a variety of examples involving carbon nanotubes and nanocellulose as fillers. Small angle neutron scattering has long been a fundamental tool in the study of polymers using mixtures of isotopically labels polymers. Two complementary presentations were made by Anica Lancuski Université Joseph Fourier, France and Saeed Mohan University of Reading on the differing levels of anisotropy present in electrospun fibres.

Professor S Eichhorn, University of Exeter, UK gave a lecture on Supercapacitance from carbonised cellulose nanofibres.

The conference closed with two excellent lectures from A Barber, Queen Mary University of London, UK on 'Tough electrospun polystyrene nanocomposites' which were based on a polystyrene matrix containing nanoscale fibres of polystyrene. This composite was much tougher than the polystyrene matrix. The second lecture from C Wittmer, Université de Strasbourg, France on 'controlling the pore size of 3D electrospun biomaterials using simultaneously and synergistically electrospinning, electrospraying and architectured collectors' showed how complex patterns and structures could be prepared.

Certificates were presented to the 3 best posters. The prize winners were A Wooldridge of University Warwick, F. Zhang Queen Mary University of London and Y.B.Truong CSIRO Material Science and Engineering, Austrialia.

The conference Chair was Professor Geoffrey Mitchell of the Centre for Rapid and Sustainable Product Development, Institute Polytechnic Leiria, Portugal. The conference was part of the programme of three Institute of Physics Subject Groups: Dielectrics Group, Electrostatics Group and the Polymer Physics Group and was organised in partnership with the COST ACtion MP1206. The exhibition was supported by Cole-Palmer, Electrospinz and The Profector Group. The Conference organised was Amy Fitzgerald of the IOP Conference Office. The general consensus amongst the participants was that it was an excellent meeting, ideal location and well organised. Many delegates were hoping for a follow-on meeting in 2015.

Geoffrey Mitchell
Conference Chair
7 December 2013