Polymer-inorganic core-shell nanofibers by electrospinning and atomic layer deposition: Flexible nylon-ZnO core-shell nanofiber mats and their photocatalytic activity
Polymer-inorganic core-shell nanofibers were produced by two-step approach; electrospinning and atomic layer deposition (ALD). First, nylon 6,6 (polymeric core) nanofibers were obtained by electrospinning, and then zinc oxide (ZnO) (inorganic shell) with precise thickness control was deposited onto electrospun nylon 6,6 nanofibers using ALD technique. The bead-free and uniform nylon 6,6 nanofibers having different average fiber diameters (∼80, ∼240 and ∼650 nm) were achieved by using two different solvent systems and polymer concentrations. ZnO layer about 90 nm, having uniform thickness around the fiber structure, was successfully deposited onto the nylon 6,6 nanofibers. Because of the low deposition temperature utilized (200 °C), ALD process did not deform the polymeric fiber structure, and highly conformal ZnO layer with precise thickness and composition over a large scale were accomplished regardless of the differences in fiber diameters. ZnO shell layer was found to have a polycrystalline nature with hexagonal wurtzite structure. The core-shell nylon 6,6-ZnO nanofiber mats were flexible because of the polymeric core component. Photocatalytic activity of the core-shell nylon 6,6-ZnO nanofiber mats were tested by following the photocatalytic decomposition of rhodamine-B dye. The nylon 6,6-ZnO nanofiber mat, having thinner fiber diameter, has shown better photocatalytic efficiency due to higher surface area of this sample. These nylon 6,6-ZnO nanofiber mats have also shown structural stability and kept their photocatalytic activity for the second cycle test. Our findings suggest that core-shell nylon 6,6-ZnO nanofiber mat can be a very good candidate as a filter material for water purification and organic waste treatment because of their photocatalytic properties along with structural flexibility and stability. © 2012 American Chemical Society.