Sengupta and Bhowmick Awarded NSF-MRI Grant to Acquire Nanospider for Next Generation of Polymeric Nanofibers
College of Engineering faculty members Sukalyan Sengupta (CEN) and Sankha Bhowmick (MNE) were awarded an NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant of $118,350 to acquire a Nanospider electrospinning apparatus to enable the high-throughput, repeatable fabrication of a range of advanced polymer nanofibers, including tubular and layered structures. There are many potential applications of these fibers from environmental separation to wound healing, drug delivery, and tissue regeneration. The PI, Dr. Sengupta works in the field of environmental separation where selective and targeted removal of toxic ions is desired against a background of benign ions that are present at much higher concentrations than the target ion. Ion exchange nanofibers have shown promise in achieving this goal. Co-PI, Dr. Bhowmick's research focus has been in developing insights into fiber- cell interaction with a goal of developing new generation tissue engineering scaffolds that can be modulated for wound healing and tissue regeneration. Electrospinning can generate scaffolds whose fiber diameter range from micron to submicron. This ability, along with the possibility of creating alignment in various forms, suggests that a wide array of scaffolds can be manufactured. The equipment obtained through this grant will enhance research projects in this area by providing a platform technology that will allow naofibers to be developed from a variety of starting polymers. The research conducted using the Nanospider(TM) electrospinning apparatus will be transformational because it will provide answers to some fundamental questions involving polymer-solvent interaction, role of viscosity and surface tension in fiber spinnability, effect of potential gradient and collector distance (from needle containing the polymer), etc. These answers are critical to provide innovative solutions to overcome technical barriers that exist in more widespread use of this technology.
Author: Suku Sengupta