Adv Healthc Mater. 2021 Jul 4:e2100766. doi: 10.1002/adhm.202100766. Online ahead of print.
Electrostatic flocking, a textile engineering technique, uses Coulombic driving forces to propel conductive microfibers toward an adhesive-coated substrate, leaving a forest of aligned fibers. Though an easy way to induce anisotropy along a surface, this technique is limited to microfibers capable of accumulating charge. This study reports a novel method, utilizing principles from the percolation theory to make electrically insulative polymeric microfibers flockable. A variety of well-mixed, conductive materials are added to multiple insulative and biodegradable polymer microfibers during wet spinning, which enables nearly all types of polymer microfibers to accumulate sufficient charges required for flocking. Biphasic, biodegradable scaffolds are fabricated by flocking silver nanoparticle (AgNP)-filled poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) microfibers onto substrates made from 3D printing, electrospinning, and thin-film casting. The incorporation of AgNP into PCL fibers and use of chitosan-based adhesive enables antimicrobial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The fabricated scaffolds demonstrate both favorable in vitro cell response and new tissue formation after subcutaneous implantation in rats, as evident by newly formed blood vessels and infiltrated cells. This technology opens the door for using previously unflockable polymer microfibers as surface modifiers or standalone structures in various engineering fields.