The Stretching of an Electrified Non-Newtonian Jet: a Model for Electrospinning.

Feng, J. J.
Phys. Fluids 14, 3912-3926 (2002)
Abstract - Electrospinning uses an external electrostatic field to accelerate and stretch a charged polymer jet, and may produce ultrafine ``nanofibers". Many polymers have been successfully electrospun in the laboratory. Recently Hohman et al.6,7proposed an electrohydrodynamic model for electrospinning Newtonian jets. A problem arises, however, with the boundary condition at the nozzle. Unless the initial surface charge density is zero or very small, the jet bulges out upon exiting the nozzle in a ``ballooning instability'', which never occurs in reality. In this paper, we will first describe a slightly different Newtonian model that avoids the instability. Well-behaved solutions are produced which are insensitive to the initial charge density except inside a tiny ``boundary layer'' at the nozzle. Then a non-Newtonian viscosity function is introduced into the model and the effects of extension-thinning/thickening are explored. Results show two distinct regimes of stretching. For a ``mildly stretched" jet, the axial tensile force in the fiber resists stretching, so that extension-thinning promotes stretching and thickening hinders stretching. For a ``severely stretched" jet, on the other hand, the tensile force enhances stretching at the beginning of the jet and suppresses it further downstream. The effects of extensional viscosity then depend on the competition between the upstream and downstream dynamics. Finally, we use an empirical correlation to simulate strain-hardening typical of polymeric liquids. This generally steepens the axial gradient of the tensile stress. Stretching is more pronounced at the beginning but weakens later, and ultimately thicker fibers are produced because of strain-hardening.