Researchers Develop Green Electrospinning Process for Biofabrication

Green manufacturing is currently transforming into a highly vital process among industries, fueled by increasing awareness of adverse health and environmental impacts linked with conventional practices.

Researchers Develop Green Electrospinning Process for Biofabrication.

Image Credit: Vink Fan

The biomaterials industry across the world employs electrospinning, a widespread fabrication process, to create nano- to microscale fibrous meshes that closely mimic native tissue architecture. The method employs conventionally used solvents that are both environmentally unsafe and also pose a considerable barrier to clinical translation, industrial scale-up, and eventually extensive use.

Scientists from Columbia Engineering announced the fabrication of a “green electrospinning” process that approaches most of the challenges in scaling up this fabrication method. The process addresses challenges in managing the environmental hazards of volatile solvent storage, disposal of huge volumes and encountering safety and health standards during both fabrication and implementation.

The novel research published on June 28th, 2021, in the journal Biofabrication elaborates how the researchers modernized the nanofiber fabrication of widely used biological and synthetic polymers (for example, poly-α-hydroxyesters, collagen), polymer-ceramic composites, and polymer blends.

The research also highlights the excellence of green manufacturing. The team’s “green” fibers showcased extraordinary mechanical properties and preserved growth factor bioactivity relative to traditional fiber counterparts — a property vital for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications.

Regenerative medicine is a $156 billion global industry, with rapid growth. The researchers headed by Helen H. Lu, Percy K., and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of Biomedical Engineering, aimed to approach the challenge of setting scalable green manufacturing practices for biomimetic biomaterials and scaffolds employed in regenerative medicine.

We think this is a paradigm shift in biofabrication and will accelerate the translation of scalable biomaterials and biomimetic scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Helen H. Lu, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

Lu is a leader in research on tissue interfaces, specifically the design of biomaterials and therapeutic strategies for recreating the body’s natural synchrony between tissues.

Green electrospinning not only preserves the composition, chemistry, architecture, and biocompatibility of traditionally electrospun fibers, but it also improves their mechanical properties by doubling the ductility of traditional fibers without compromising yield or ultimate tensile strength. Our work provides both a more biocompatible and sustainable solution for scalable nanomaterial fabrication.

Helen H. Lu, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

The research group comprised many BME doctoral students from Lu’s group, Christopher Mosher PhD’20, and Philip Brudnicki, along with Theanne Schiros, an expert in eco-conscious textile synthesis who is also a research scientist at Columbia MRSEC and assistant professor at FIT.

Theanne Schiros employed sustainability principles for biomaterial production and created a green electrospinning process by systematically testing what the FDA considers as biologically benign solvents (Q3C Class 3).

The researchers recognized acetic acid as a green solvent that features low ecological impact (Sustainable Minds® Life Cycle Assessment) and supports a stable electrospinning jet under ordinary fabrication conditions.

By tuning electrospinning parameters, like needle-plate distance and flow rate, the scientists could improve the fabrication of research and industry-standard biomedical polymers, reducing the harmful manufacturing impacts of the electrospinning process by three to six times.

Green electrospun materials can be used in varied applications. Lu’s group is now striving to further innovate these materials for dental and orthopedic applications. They are also involved in widening this eco-conscious fabrication process for the scalable production of regenerative materials.

Biofabrication has been referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ following steam engines, electrical power, and the digital age for automating mass production. This work is an important step towards developing sustainable practices in the next generation of biomaterials manufacturing, which has become paramount amidst the global climate crisis.

Christopher Z. Mosher, Study First Author, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

Journal Reference:

Mosher, C. Z., et al. (2021) Green electrospinning for biomaterials and biofabrication. Biofabrication.


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