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Title: Novel Wet Electrospinning Inside a Reactive Pre-Ceramic Gel to Yield Advanced Nanofiber-Reinforced Geopolymer Composites
Electrospinning is a versatile approach to generate nanofibers in situ. Yet, recently, wet electrospinning has been introduced as a more efficient way to deposit isolated fibers inside bulk materials. In wet electrospinning, a liquid bath is adopted, instead of a solid collector, for fiber collection. However, despite several studies focused on wet electrospinning to yield polymer composites, few studies have investigated wet electrospinning to yield ceramic composites. In this paper, we propose a novel in-situ fabrication approach for nanofiber-reinforced ceramic composites based on an enhanced wet-electrospinning method. Our method uses electrospinning to draw polymer nanofibers directly into a reactive pre-ceramic gel, which is later activated to yield advanced nanofiber-reinforced ceramic composites. We demonstrate our method by investigating wet electrospun Polyacrylonitrile and Poly(ethylene oxide) fiber-reinforced geopolymer composites, with fiber weight fractions in the range 0.1–1.0 wt%. Wet electrospinning preserves the amorphous structure of geopolymer while changing the molecular arrangement. Wet electrospinning leads to an increase in both the fraction of mesopores and the overall porosity of geopolymer composites. The indentation modulus is in the range 6.76–8.90 GPa and the fracture toughness is in the range 0.49–0.76 MPam with a clear stiffening and toughening effect observed for Poly(ethylene oxide)-reinforced geopolymer composites. This work demonstrates the viability of wet electrospinning to fabricate multifunctional nanofiber-reinforced composites.  more » « less
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