Nanofibres are the technology of future: What is their attractiveness and where do they help?
Thanks to their unique physical properties, nanofibres can be used in many areas of human activity. It's not just ultra-fine masks and filters for respirators – nanofibres are helping also elsewhere.
Nanofibres have been with us for hundreds of years. As early as 1600, William Gilbert observed the behaviour of a fluid affected by electric field created by friction of a piece of amber. In 1887, the British physicist Charles Vernon Boys published a manuscript on the development of nanofibres and how they could be produced. His discoveries subsequently helped the American inventor, John Francis Cooley, to file the first modern patent for electrospinning. This was the year 1900.
The 20th century was a period of major development. Between 1934 and 1944, Anton Formhals patented many improved processes for the production of nanofibre-enriched textile yarns. In 1938, a pair of scientists, Nathalia Rozenblum and Igor Petrjanov-Sokolov, managed to use electrostatic spinning to produce an ultra-fine filter, also known as the Petrjanov Filter.
Between 1964 and 1969, Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor created the theoretical basis for electrostatic spinning. In the early 1990s, Reneker and Rutledge proved that a variety of polymers could be used to spin nanofibres. Since then, the number of publications on electrospinning has increased exponentially each year.
The revolution in electrospinning came in 2004 at the Technical University in Liberec, where Professor Jirsák's team carried out the Liquid Free Surface Electrospinning. In 2006, together with the company Elmarco, the first industrial machine with a working width of 1600 mm was sold. The Nanospider technology is rightly considered a breakthrough, mainly due to the possibility to produce nanofibres on a truly industrial scale. All this thanks to the simplicity, reliability and flexibility of the raw materials.
Public interest in nanofibre technologies has increased the most due to face masks and respirator filters, but they have already simplified and improved our lives for years.