Electrospinning of polymer solutions is a multifaceted process that depends on the careful balancing of many parameters to achieve a desired outcome, in many cases including mixtures of multiple solvents. A systematic study of how the solution viscosity (Formula presented.) —a good probe of solvent–polymer interactions—and the electrospinnability change when poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) is dissolved in ethanol–water mixtures at varying mixing ratio is carried out. A pronounced maximum is found in (Formula presented.) at a water-to-ethanol molar ratio of about 2:1, where the solvent mixture deviates maximally from ideal mixing behavior and partial deprotonation of carboxyl groups by water coincides synergistically with dissolution of the uncharged protonated PAA fraction by ethanol. The PAA concentration is tuned as a function of water–ethanol ratio to obtain a common value of (Formula presented.) for all solvent mixtures that is suitable for electrospinning. For high PAA content, the Taylor cone grows in volume over time despite minimum solution flow rate, even experiencing surface gelation for ethanol-rich solutions. This is attributed to the hygroscopic nature of PAA, drawing excess water into the Taylor cone from the air during spinning.
- poly(acrylic acid)