Researchers Create Unique High Strength Polymer Fibres

Together with partners in Germany, China and Switzerland a research team from the University of Bayreuth has developed a new polymer fibre that is strong and tough yet as light as a feather.

The new fibres can be easily produced using a process that’s already established in the industry and are based on polymers readily available worldwide. One individual fibre is as thin as a human hair, weighs less than a fruit fly, and is very strong: It can lift a weight of 30 grams without tearing. This corresponds to about 150,000 times the weight of a fruit fly. Experiments on the high tensile strength of these fibres have revealed their extreme toughness. This means that each individual fibre can absorb a lot of energy.

Electrospinning of a multifibrillar polyacrylonitrile fibre. Credit: University of Bayreuth / Rennecke.

Due to their unique properties, the polymer fibres are ideally suited for technical components that are exposed to high loads. They enable innovative applications in a wide variety of fields, for example in the textile industry or medical technology, in automotive engineering, or in the aerospace industry. In addition, polymer fibres can be easily recycled.

We are certain that our research results have opened the door to a new, forward-looking class of materials. Practical applications on the part of industry can be expected in the near future. In polymer science, our fibres will be able to provide valuable services in the further research and development of high-performance functional materials. Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner, University of Bayreuth

The chemical basis of these fibres is polyacrylonitrile. A single fibre with a diameter of about 40,000 nanometres consists of up to 4,000 ultra-thin fibrils. These fibrils are linked by small amounts of an additive. Three-dimensional X-ray images show that the fibrils within the fibre are almost always arranged in the same longitudinal direction.

Three-dimensional X-ray images show that the fibrils within the fibre are almost always arranged in the same longitudinal direction. The multifibrillar polyacrylonitrile fibres are prepared in a laboratory for electrospinning at the University of Bayreuth and extensively tested for their properties and behaviour.

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