Fabrication of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) Fibers Using Centrifugal Fiber Spinning: Structure, Properties and Application Potential
Biobased and biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are currently gaining momentum. Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate) (PHBHHx) polymer has a useful processing window for extrusion and injection molding of packaging, agricultural and fishery applications with required flexibility. Processing PHBHHx into fibers using electrospinning or centrifugal fiber spinning (CFS) can further broaden the application area, although CFS remains rather unexplored. In this study, PHBHHx fibers are centrifugally spun from 4&ndash;12 wt.% polymer/chloroform solutions. Beads and beads-on-a-string (BOAS) fibrous structures with an average diameter (&#981;av) between 0.5 and 1.6 &micro;m form at 4&ndash;8 wt.% polymer concentrations, while more continuous fibers (&#981;av = 3.6&ndash;4.6 &micro;m) with few beads form at 10&ndash;12 wt.% polymer concentrations. This change is correlated with increased solution viscosity and enhanced mechanical properties of the fiber mats (strength, stiffness and elongation values range between 1.2&ndash;9.4 MPa, 11&ndash;93 MPa, and 102&ndash;188%, respectively), though the crystallinity degree of the fibers remains constant (33.0&ndash;34.3%). In addition, PHBHHx fibers are shown to anneal at 160 &deg;C in a hot press into 10&ndash;20 &micro;m compact top-layers on PHBHHx film substrates. We conclude that CFS is a promising novel processing technique for the production of PHBHHx fibers with tunable morphology and properties. Subsequent thermal post-processing as a barrier or active substrate top-layer offers new application potential.