Electrospinning is a robust material fabrication method allowing for fine control of mechanical, chemical, and functional properties in scaffold manufacturing. Electrospun fiber scaffolds have gained prominence for their potential in a variety of applications such as tissue engineering and textile manufacturing, yet none have assessed the impact of solvent retention in fibers on the scaffold’s mechanical properties. In this study, we hypothesized that retained electrospinning solvent acts as a plasticizer, and gradual solvent evaporation, by storing fibers in ambient air, will cause significant increases in electrospun fiber scaffold brittleness and stiffness, and a significant decrease in scaffold toughness. Thermogravimetric analysis indicated solvent retention in PGA, PLCL, and PET fibers, and not in PU and PCL fibers. Differential scanning calorimetry revealed that polymers that were electrospun below their glass transition temperature (Tg) retained solvent and polymers electrospun above Tg did not. Young’s moduli increased and yield strain decreased for solventretaining PGA, PLCL, and PET fiber scaffolds as solvent evaporated from the scaffolds over a period of 14 days. Toughness and failure strain decreased for PGA and PET scaffolds as solvent evaporated. No significant differences were observed in the mechanical properties of PU and PCL scaffolds that did not retain solvent. These observations highlight the need to consider solvent retention following electrospinning and its potential effects on scaffold mechanical properties.
Electrospinning 2, 15-28 (2018).