The effect of additives and process parameters on the pilot-scale manufacturing of polylactic acid sub-microfibers by melt electrospinning

Kylie Koenig*, Stefan Hermanns, Jacqueline Ellerkmann, Ketie Saralidze, Fabian Langensiepen, Gunnar Seide

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sub-microfibers are polymer filaments less than 1 mu m in diameter that can be fabricated into highly flexible materials with a large specific surface area. They are often produced by solvent or melt electrospinning. The former is a scalable process that produces thinner fibers but requires hazardous solvents, whereas the latter is more environmentally sustainable due to the absence of solvents but is more challenging to scale up. Here we investigated the manufacturing of biobased polylactic acid (PLA) sub-microfibers by melt electrospinning using a single-nozzle laboratory-scale device and a novel 600-nozzle pilot-scale device combined with conductive and viscosity-reducing additives: sodium stearate (NaSt), sodium chloride (NaCl) and a polyester-based plasticizer. We determined the effect of different additive concentrations on fiber diameter, thermal properties, polymer degradation, and fiber deposition. At the laboratory scale, the minimum average fiber diameter (16.44 mu m) was accomplished by adding 2% (w/w) NaCl, but a stable spinning process was not achieved and the plasticizer did not reduce the melt viscosity. NaSt was the most effective additive in terms of adapting the material properties of PLA for melt electrospinning, but extensive polymer degradation occurred at higher temperatures and with higher concentrations of the additive. At the pilot-scale, the minimum average fiber diameter (3.77 mu m) was achieved by adding 6% (w/w) NaSt, with a spinneret temperature of 195celcius and a spin pump speed of 0.5 rpm (0.16 cm(3)), without further improvements such as the integration of a heating chamber. The smallest single-fiber diameter (1.23 mu m) was achieved under the same conditions but using a spin pump speed of 2 rpm. The scaled-up melt-electrospinning device therefore offers significant potential for the production of biobased sub-microfibers, bridging the gap between laboratory-scale and pilot-scale manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0040517520904019
Pages (from-to)1948-1961
Number of pages14
JournalTextile Research Journal
Issue number17-18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • biobased fibers
  • nonwoven
  • fiber production
  • process upscaling
  • electrospinning
  • JETS

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