Nanofibers are of great interest to many in the scientific community for a range of applications mainly due to their geometry. Because nanofibers have a high aspect ratio (length to diameter), the ability to create nanofiber platforms with a high surface area to volume ratio exists. Electrospinning is one simple method to produce such fibers.
An electrospinning apparatus consists of a syringe, and collector plate, connected by a voltage supply. This basic set up is seen in Figure 1.
A chosen material is loaded into the syringe and at the tip of the needle, the solution is held by surface tension. When voltage is applied and the charge overcomes the surface tension, the polymer will leave the syringe, forming a Taylor cone. From the Taylor cone the polymer solution forms a jet, which is attracted by the voltage loop to the collector plate. The optimal distance between the collector plate and the syringe is determined by the bending instabilities experienced by the polymer jet. The instabilities cause the jet to whip around increasing the likelihood of breaking, but also aiding in solvent evaporation.
HA McIlwee, JD Schiffman, MD Cathell, CL Schauer, "Deposition of Chitosan: Electro-spinning and Thin Films" in Current Research and Developments on Chitin and Chitosan in Biomaterial Science. R Jayakumar and M Prabaharan, Eds., Research Signpost, Kerala (2008) pp. 81-122.