Structure–function relationships and source-to-ground distance in electrospun polycaprolactone
The strength of electrospun scaffolds has direct relevance to their function within tissue engineering. We characterized the effects of source-to-ground distance on the mechanical properties of electrospun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL). Source-to-ground distances of 10, 15 and 20 cm, solids concentrations of 12 and 18 wt.% and mandrel rotation surface speeds of 0–12 m s−1 were utilized. Tensile tests evaluated elastic modulus, tensile strength and elongation at failure. Scanning electron microscopy provided morphology and quantified fiber alignment. Increased source-to-ground distance yielded a microstructure allowing greater fiber rearrangement under load, tripling the observed tensile strength. Increases in rotational speed generally increased fiber alignment and strength at high but not low to moderate speeds. As fiber is quickly pulled out of a comparatively gentle falling process, collision with neighboring fibers moving at different speeds and in different directions can occur. The source-to-ground distance influences these collisions and thus has critical implications for microstructure and biocompatibility. In larger diameter (18 wt.% PCL), heavily point-bonded fibers (produced using a shorter, 10 cm source-to-ground distance), elongation at failure in the aligned direction increases dramatically due to severe localized necking. These specimens show only half of the tensile strength (from 2.6 to 4.5 MPa) and a dramatic increase (from 94% to 503%) in elongation at failure vs. a longer 20 cm source-to-ground distance. Strains of several hundred per cent are accompanied by periodic necking of large-diameter fibers in which microstructural failure appears to occur in a sequential manner involving an equilibrium between localized strain in the tensile direction and anisotropic point bonding that locally resists strain.
Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 5, Issue 5, June 2009, Pages 1552–1561