In this study, the fabrication of crosslinked nonwoven fibers via simultaneous thiol-ene photopolymerization and spinning of monomer jets has been demonstrated in centrifugal Forcespinning for the first time. We observed that simultaneous Forcespinning and photopolymerization resulted in a wide variety of fiber morphologies including beads, beads-on-string, uniform fiber, fused fibers, and well-cured fibers. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms and parameter interactions that give rise to these morphologies, we systematically varied the light intensity, solution elasticity, and spin speed of the Forcespinning process. From these experimental results, an operating diagram was constructed based on the measured process parameters, their respective timescales, and observed effects on fiber morphology. While numerous parameters can individually affect fiber formation and morphology, the interplay between curing kinetics, solution viscoelasticity, and orifice-to-collector processing time window is also crucial in this process. Smooth and well-cured fibers were formed only when the photopolymerization occurred sufficiently quickly, before both the breakup of fibers into droplets due to a surface tension driven Rayleigh instability and the deposition of fibers on the collector. Our findings can serve as a predictive guideline for the fabrication of crosslinked fibers with desired morphology, the implementation of the in-situ polymerization and spinning concept into other commercial fiber manufacturing technologies, and the adaptation of other functional or high performance monomer systems.
- Polymer processing