Easily scalable membrane production for new generation medicine and energy industry

Scientists at Tomsk Polytechnic University were able to obtain polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membranes by electrospinning. PTFE is known to be the most stable polymer in existence. According to scientists, this is a simple, affordable and easily scalable method that will result in chemically stable membranes in production on an industrial scale. The membranes can be used in petrochemicals, aerospace, nuclear industries, carbon-free energy and medicine.

The latest results of research into the physical and chemical properties and biocompatibility of the membranes obtained are published in the Journal of Fluorine Chemistry (IF: 2332; Q1). The membranes obtained were tested using cells and laboratory animals. Research has confirmed that membranes are not rejected by cells and are not destroyed in the biological matrix. The interdisciplinary team of physicists and chemists is currently conducting research at TPU.

“The material and the methods of working with it were remarkable to us. PTFE is a fluorine-containing polymer. Fluorine and similar compounds are called fluoropolymers. They are remarkable to scientists and experts working in industrial companies because of their inert. Fluoropolymers can be used in corrosive environments or where material stability is critical. This can be either a hydrogen fuel cell operating in corrosive environment conditions or a medical implant in the environment. inside a human body. This means that obtaining membranes is very prospect, however, there is no high-capacity technology It is either expensive or labor-intensive, even if the raw material is affordable, ”explains Evgeny Bolbasov, a researcher at the TPU Butakov Research Center.

The TPU scientists used electrospinning. He draws wires loaded with polymer solutions under the effect of an electric field. The result is a knitted material of polymeric yarns.

“The main advantage of the method is that the small laboratory installation is no different from an industrial installation in terms of its core and its processes. Everything that can be done in the laboratory is easily reproducible in business. Previously, it was believed that obtaining a PTFE membrane using electrospinning is simply not possible. PTFE is not pulled through the threads. To solve this problem, we added polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a crosslinking agent in the synthesis chain, ”explains the scientist.

The process for obtaining the membrane described in the article has two steps. First, a very fine powder is mixed with PVA. A loading of solution in the electrospinning installation is obtained. The finer threads are drawn inside the electrospinning plant and the white porous bed is spun from these drawn threads. It is the membrane. In the second step, the membrane is baked in an oven at about 400 ° ?. The added PVA evaporates completely in the oven and the membrane darkens a little. The whole process does not take more than three hours.

The researchers note that all of the raw materials used for the synthesis are commercially affordable and are produced in Russia.

These membranes have a wide range of potential applications. Only scalable technology is required. Industrial methods for obtaining membranes from fluoropolymers are sought after in Europe, the USA and China. Meanwhile, Russian scientists have the opportunity to offer a commercially interesting solution. From our point of view, electrospinning is such a solution.

This method is a dozen times cheaper than its alternatives, it allows to easily control the porous structure of the membranes. In addition, this method is reproducible and scalable, which is very interesting for potential industrial partners ”, explains Vyacheslav Buznik, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, one of the authors of the article.

“Currently, the main task of TPU researchers is to show the opportunities of the method to solve specific applied problems. The task is complicated, complex. It can only be solved by interdisciplinary teams made up of materials specialists, chemists , physicists. It is of crucial importance to us that there are all the required experts and skills at TPU. This will help us to actively develop this field “, notes Marina Trusova, director of the TPU Research School of Chemistry and Applied Biomedical Sciences.

Reference: Kolesnik I, Tverdokhlebova T, Danilenko N, et al. Characterization and determination of the biocompatibility of porous polytetrafluoroethylene membranes produced by electrospinning. J. Fluor. Chemistry. 2021; 246: 109798. do I: 10.1016 / j.jfluchem.2021.109798

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