Nanotechnology has opened up innumerable possibilities for developing next generation functional materials. Nanofibers, which are 1/1000th in diameter in comparison to a cotton fiber, have found applications in making high efficiency industrial filters, automobile oil and fuel filters, scaffolds for tissue engineering, highly responsive electronic sensors, protective devices and much more. However, commercial production of nanofibers has been challenging. To tackle this challenge, researchers at SMITA Research Lab of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, New Delhi/India, have developed a technology for the industrial scale production of nanofibers.
Electrospinning is the most popular technology for producing these nanofibers, where they are deposited on a substrate for such applications. Many challenges are faced during the process, which include continuous mass production of nanofibers over a wide width, high rates of deposition, uniform deposition, production of low diameter fibers, and adhesion etc.
The pilot machine developed at IIT Delhi has been validated in an industrial set-up for producing nanofibers at commercial scale. The technology has been granted patents in India, the UK and the USA.
There are a few manufacturers outside India that make continuous electrospinning machines. However, their products suffer from non-uniform deposition when low add-ons are required, which is an essential requirement for a cost-effective solution. In India, there is no company engaged in the mass production of nanofibers. The research group at IIT Delhi is the first one to develop technology for continuous production of nanofibers over a large width of substrate suitable for various applications.
Using their technology, the researchers have developed high efficiency fuel and oil nanofiber filters, which were found to be stable during the mechanical fabrication process and then during the life of the filter. The technology is suitable for meeting tighter standards of vehicular pollutions, for protection of individuals from rising air pollution, and health care devices, etc.