African Physics Newsletter

Promoting Electrospinning in Africa

Meniscus of Polyvinyl Alcohol in aqueous solution showing a fiber drawn from a Taylor Cone by the process of electrospinning. Source: Robert Lamberts - The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd CC BY 3.0

A workshop where participants were able to learn the theory and practice of a fiber making technique has been held in Botswana.

The electrospinning pre-conference workshop, which was part of the pre-conference in the 10th African Materials Research Society Conference (AMRS), attracted 18 people from eight different countries on two continents. Representatives from Kenya (7), Ghana (2), South Africa (3), Tanzania (2), Zimbabwe (1), United States of America (1), Mozambique (1) and Ethiopia (1) had an electrospinning urge.

Driven by ever-changing societal needs and the increasing gap between academia and industry, the participants congregated at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) Arusha, Tanzania, on 8th and 9th December 2019 for this especially appropriate topic of concept of ’How to make fibers'.

A fiber making technique

Two senior researchers, Samuel Chigome and Ipe Mavunkal, both from the Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI), took the leading role in reaching the objective of knowledge dissemination. The fiber-making technique, which relies on repulsive electrostatic forces, was introduced in a baby-step approach to induct participants into the art as a second objective.

The event was designed to provide a scientific understanding of the electrospinning technique and illustrate a basic setup. The third objective was to promote linkage of electrospinning industries and scholars in African universities.

Lectures and hands-on activities

All the objectives of the pre-conference were achieved through lectures and hands-on activities offered by Samuel and Ipe in an alternating manner. Demonstration of laboratory scale electrospinning and industrial scale electrospinning were covered, and the participants took center stage on fabricating the fibers.

Electrospinning experiment

Participants in the workshop. Photo: George Manyali, Kaimosi University College


Many thanks to Samuel and Ipe for the job well done in discussing real African problems such as inadequate or lack of sanitary towels for young school girls and providing the solutions through electrospinning of nanofibers. There is an urgent need to participate in product-based research in Africa so as to solve African problems by Africans. Electrospinning is an ideal technology to lead to social and economic growth both in Africa and the world through the generation of Nanomaterials.

The pre-conference was sponsored by BIONICIA, SPIN BOX, IN-OYENSO, CONTIPRO, and ELMARCO. Let’s embrace product-based research in Africa for better days ahead!

How electrospinning works

Very fine fibers can be made by charging a drop of the melt or emulsion on a high-voltage tip. The droplet stretches as surface tension is overcome by electrostatic repulsion.

A bulge develops – known as the Taylor cone - and the point of highest curvature develops a stream of liquid that jets away from the tip and dries in flight to make a strong fiber, of the order of nanometres wide. Electrospun fibers make excellent particulate filters, and their strength contributes to composite materials.

Electrospinning Diagram

A diagram of the electrospinning process showing the onset of instability. Source: Joanna Gatford - The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd - CC BY 3.0


James Sifuna and Victor Odari

This article was first published by the African Physics Newsletter. ©American Physical Society, 2020


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