Electrospun Multifunctional Composite Fibers for Improved Warfighter Insect Protection

Jeffrey Lundin | U.S. Naval Research Laboratory



The objective of this project is to develop novel multifunctional fibers for the controlled delivery of environmentally friendly, low toxicity insect repellents encapsulated in the core of textile-relevant polymeric fibers, such as nylon, via coaxial electrospinning. Functional fibers will be spun into threads and yarns compatible with textile manufacturing. Individual fibers will be engineered to exhibit one or more distinct functionalities providing multiple approaches for the production of yarn and/or fabric composites for environmentally sustainable multifunctional textiles. 

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Technical Approach

Coaxial electrospinning will be employed to physically embed active additives into the core of textile fibers in order to improve retention of their functional properties while maintaining the physical performance and feel of traditional fabric. Coaxial electrospinning will afford the ability to create hierarchically-structured functional micro- to nano-scale fibers by controlling the composition of specific areas of the fiber (core vs. surface). This is critical for the insect repellent application in which the release should be slowly occurring throughout the lifetime of the garments. First, insect repellents will be incorporated into the core of nylon, cellulose acetate, and polyethylene terephthalate by coaxially electrospinning (Task 1). Second, fibers will be physically spun into threads to demonstrate capability for and improved performance for multifunctional uniform applications (Task 2). Once the functionality of the core-shell fiber approach has been demonstrated using the low material requirements and flexible processing controls afforded by electrospinning, the technology will be available to facilitate transition using melt extrusion techniques. 

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The encapsulation of insect repellent (i.e. picaridin) into textile fibers via a bottom-up approach affords the potential to create fabrics and garments that exhibit similar feel of existing uniform fabrics, while also exhibiting superior performance. Incorporation of the active materials into the core of the fibers will greatly enhance the durability of these functionalities to laundering, especially when compared with surface treatments, strongly reducing the current health hazards present for surface treated fibers and increasing their environmental sustainability. The insect repellent fibers that will result from this project have the potential to greatly reduce environmental and health risks during their lifecycle by 1) increasing the longevity of functionalities after laundering, 2) reducing direct skin contact of active additives by encapsulation within the core of a benign material, and 3) generating novel fibers from which textiles and garments could be intelligently designed with functionalities localized and limited only to the areas in which they are needed. 

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Mr. Jeffrey Lundin

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Phone: 202-767-2529