In 1887, C.V. Boys tried “the old but little known experiment of electrical spinning” to melt-electrospin a thin glass fiber. While unsuccessful at that time, it’s reported that he managed to produce a 254 nm thick glass fiber by melt drawing glass with a crossbow. 1,2
Melt electrospinning is a variant on electrospinning in which the material is drawn by the electric field in its molten state. Fiber solidification due to the cooling down happens faster than the drying of the fiber due to solvent evaporation, resulting in generally thicker fibers as compared to solution electrospinning. For a while, melt electrospinning was branded to produce fibers with diameter well in the micrometer range. With more recent advances of this technique made also fibers with e.g. a diameter of 254 nm possible. 3
Compared to solution electrospinning this technique offers advantages in processing polymers which are hardly- or only soluble in highly toxic solvents such as polypropylene and polyethylene. 4 Furthermore it prevents the use of harmful solvents and the related limitations such as the removal of solvent residues and the recovery of the solvents. On the other hand the used temperature to melt the polymers, limits the simultaneous spinning of bioactive cues. Due to the slow fiber deposition speed and the short needle collector distance it is possible to fine control the fiber deposition and produce patterned scaffolds.
This technique has gained a lot of interest in the tissue engineering field thanks to the ability to create scaffolds with defined pattern consisting of fibers in the micro to submicrometer range. Additionally, these scaffolds can be used without having to be worried of potentially toxic solvent residues in the scaffold, an advantage not to be neglected.