Scientists at Tomsk Polytechnic University were able to produce polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membranes by electrospinning. PTFE is known to be the most stable polymer in existence. According to the scientists, it is a simple, inexpensive and easily scalable method with which chemically stable membranes can be produced on an industrial scale. The membranes can be used in petrochemicals, aerospace, nuclear, carbon-free energy, and medicine.
The latest results of research into the physical and chemical properties and biocompatibility of the membranes obtained are published in the Journal of Fluorochemistry (IF: 2,332; Q1). The membranes obtained were tested using cells and laboratory animals. The research confirmed that the membranes are not rejected by the cells and are not destroyed in the biological matrix. The interdisciplinary team of physicists and chemists is currently conducting research at the TPU.
“The material and the way we work were remarkable for us. PTFE is a fluorine-containing polymer. Fluorine and similar compounds are called fluoropolymers. For scientists and experts in industrial companies, they are remarkable because of their inertness. Fluoropolymers can be used in corrosive media or where material stability is critical. These can either be hydrogen fuel cells, which are operated under the conditions of corrosive media, or a medical implant in the human body. This means that obtaining membranes is very perspective, but there is no large capacity technology. It is either expensive or labor-intensive, even if the raw material is affordable, “says Evgeny Bolbasov, Research Fellow of the TPU Butakov Research Center.
The TPU scientists used electrospinning. It draws charged threads from polymer solutions under the action of an electric field. The result is a knitted material made from polymer threads.
“The main advantage of the process is that the small laboratory system does not differ from an industrial one in terms of core and processes. Everything that can be done in the laboratory is easily reproducible in the company Membrane by electrospinning is simply not possible. PTFE is not pulled into threads. To solve this problem, we added polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a crosslinker in the synthesis chain, “says the scientist.
The process for making the membrane described in the article comprises two stages. First, very fine powder is mixed with PVA. A solution charge is obtained in the electrospinning plant. The thinnest threads are drawn into the electrospinning system and the white, porous bed is spun from these drawn threads. It’s the membrane. In stage two, the membrane is fired in an oven at around 400 ° C. The added PVA evaporates completely in the oven and the membrane becomes somewhat dark. The entire process takes no more than three hours.
The researchers note that all raw materials used for synthesis are commercially affordable and made in Russia.
These membranes have a wide range of applications. All that is needed is a scalable technology. Industrial processes for the production of membranes from fluoropolymers are sought in Europe, the USA and China. The Russian scientists now have the opportunity to offer a commercially interesting solution. From our point of view, electrospinning is such a solution.
This method is a dozen times cheaper than its alternatives and allows easy control of the pore structure of the membranes. In addition, this method is reproducible and scalable, which is very interesting for potential industrial partners, ”says Vyacheslav Buznik, academic at the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the authors of the article.
“At the moment, the main task of the TPU researchers is to identify methodological possibilities for solving specific application problems. The task is complicated, complex. It can only be solved by interdisciplinary teams consisting of material specialists, chemists and physicists for us that all the necessary experts and competencies are available at the TPU. It will help us to actively develop this field, ”says Marina Trusova, director of the TPU Research School of Chemistry and Applied Biomedical Sciences.
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