Nanofiber Technology for Environmental Applications*
Benjamin S. Hsiao
Department of Chemistry, Stony Brook University,
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3400
Tel: (631)632-7793, FAX: (631) 632-6518
In recent years, there has been an explosive growth of research activities to explore the
development of nanofiber technology by electro-spinning and the applications of electro-spun
nanofibers. The majority of current electrospinning related studies are concerned with the
generation of new nano-structured materials and their applications, encompassing biological
membranes (substrates for tissue regeneration, immobilized enzymes and catalyst systems,
wound dressing articles, artificial blood vessels and materials for the prevention of post-
operative induced adhesions), aerosol filters and clothing membranes for protection against
environmental elements, optical and chemical sensors and electrical conductors.
Recently, nanofibrous materials have been made more readily available in large part due to
advances in electro-spinning and related technologies, including the use of a combination of
electrostatic and gas-blowing forces . The non-woven structure has unique features, including
interconnected pores, very large surface-to-volume ratio, and ease of surface modifications
which enable such scaffolds to have many biomedical and industrial applications. The chemical
composition of electrospun membranes can be adjusted by using different polymers, polymer
blends or nanocomposites, made of organic or inorganic materials.
In this talk, we will focus on the use of nanofibers for environmental applications,
particularly for water purification [2-4]. The major innovation of our nanofiber technology is
that membranes made of polymer-based nanofiber materials have drastically improved flux
capacities (e.g. by 3-10X increase) but retain their resistance to fouling. Better flux means less
time to filter the same amount of water, which in turn increases energy and cost efficiency.
Better resistance to fouling refers to the ability to avoid clogging of the membrane pores by
foreign matter, such as oil, detergents, biomacromolecules and salts that can accumulate during
the purification process and block a membrane’s effectiveness. The fouling resistance of our
filters can be comparable to that of the best-known commercial filters.
* A joint project with Prof. Benjamin Chu
1. Christian Burger, Benjamin S. Hsiao and Benjamin Chu, “Nanoﬁbrous Materials and Their
Applications”, Annual Review of Materials Research, 36, 333–68 (2006).
2. Xuefen Wang, Xuming Chen, Kyunghwan Yoon, Dufei Fang, Benjamin S. Hsiao and
Benjamin Chu, “High Flux Ultrafiltration Media Based on Nanofibrous Substrate with
Hydrophilic Nanocomposite Coating”, Environmental Science and Technology, 39(19), 7684-
3. Kyunghwan Yoon, Xuefen Wang, Dufei Fang, Benjamin S. Hsiao and Benjamin Chu, “High
Flux Ultrafiltration Membranes Based on Electrospun Nanofibrous Scaffolds”, Polymer, 47,
4. Xuefen Wang, Dufei Fang, Kyunghwan Yoon, Benjamin S. Hsiao and Benjamin Chu, “High
Flux Ultrafiltration Membranes Based on Poly(vinyl alcohol) Electrospun Scaffold and
Poly(vinyl alcohol) Hydrogel Coating”, J. Membrane Sci., 278, 261-268 (2006).