Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.E.E.

Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Sylvia W. Thomas

Keywords

electrospin, nopal, Opuntia ficus-indica, polyvinyl alcohol, prickly pear

Abstract

This work seeks to fabricate, optimize, and characterize nanofibers of cactus Opuntia ficus-indica mucilage and Poly (vinyl alcohol) (PVA) by electrospinning. Mucilage is a neutral mixture of sugars produced by cactus and PVA is a non-toxic, water-soluble, synthetic polymer, which is widely used as a co-spinning agent for polymers. Mucilage was extracted from the cactus pad and prepared for electrospinning by mixing with acetic acid. Two types of PVA were used differentiating in high and low molecular weights. Concentrations of PVA were varied to find an adequate threshold for fiber formation. Changing the ratio of PVA to cactus mucilage produced fibers of different diameter and quality. The optimizations of the parameters used in the electrospinning setup were also a factor in creating quality fibers without deformity. An acceptable PVA to mucilage ratio mixture was reached for the use of the electrospinning process and consistent nanofibers were accomplished with the use of both the low and high molecular weight PVA. The fibers were observed using a Scanning Electron Microscope, Atomic Force Microscopy, and Differential Scanning Calorimetry. In this project we were able to obtain nanofiber meshes made with environmentally friendly materials with fiber diameters raging from 50nm to 7um sized. The produced nanofibers were made in the hope that it can be utilized in the future as an inexpensive, biocompatible, and biodegradable water filtration system.