The effect of increasing dosage of atmospheric dielectric barrier plasma discharge (DBD) on the surface chemistry and topography on electrically conductive electrospun PLCL/PANi biomaterials

Gareth Menagh, D Dixon, G Burke

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INTRODUCTION: Plasma surface treatments such as DBD are routinely used to enhance cellular attachment and differentiation in tissue engineering.1-3 Electrically conductive polymers have become increasingly important as a method of promoting cellular response and monitoring real-time cell culture in vitro.4 Here we investigate the effects of increasing DBD plasma processing on the surface physical, mechanical and chemical properties of electrospun PLCL/PANi an electrically conductive polymer. METHODS: Electrically conductive PLCL/PANi (4:1) composite polymer was manufactured from 10% w/w PLCL and 0.3% w/w PANi in chloroform/DMF solvent. Polymers were electrospun at 12 cm distance and 20kV to produce a randomly aligned 50μm disc. This was exposed to increasing dosages of DBD plasma up to 20 J/cm2 under atmospheric conditions. After a 48-hour resting period, the samples were characterised using wettability analysis, SEM, Tensile Testing AFM, FTiR, and XPS.RESULTS & DISCUSSION: Randomly aligned, electroconductive electrospun PLCL/PANi matrices 50μm of thickness, with an average fibre diameter of 1.75μm were manufactured. The effect of the increasing DBD treatment caused a dose-dependent statistically significant enhancement in their wettability until the point where surface melting was observed. SEM revealed a dose-dependent beneficial change in fibre morphology and topography at low DBD dosages up to 10 J/cm2. However, higher dosages above this caused polymer fibre fractures and surface melting changes to be observed. FTiR analysis following DBD plasma treatment showed no chemical changes to the bulk properties of the polymer. AFM showed alterations in the topography of the individual surface fibres (Fig 1). Chemical XPS analysis showed an increase in surface oxygenation in plasma treated samples a desirable quality in a cell culture biomaterial. Tensile testing was used in this study to firstly assess the effect of adding PANi to PLCL. Adding PANi causes a significant increase in Young’s modulus and strength (P <0.05) with no significant difference between the maximum load potentials between the two groups. Increasing plasma dosages on PLCL/PANi was also mechanically tested. A significant decrease Young’s modulus and strength was noted on all DBD treated samples (P <0.05), the samples also showed an increased maximal extension following DBD treatment. Fig. 1: AFM images of PLCL/PANi (L) and PLCL/PANi DBD treated with 10 J/cm2 (R).CONCLUSIONS: Electrically conductive polymers have many applications in tissue engineering. The problems associated with synthetic medical polymers are their inherent hydrophobicity and poor surface chemistry. The research presented here clearly shows that atmospheric DBD plasma treatment alters the surface topography to improve surface wettability. The addition of PANi to PLCL leads to the formation of stronger, stiffer fibre scaffolds with a similar maximum load potential. Despite DBD being a cold plasma technology thermal damage to the individual fibres was observed at higher DBD dosages. DBD treatment causes PLCL/PANi fibres to become more pliable at the cost of overall fibre strength. 10 J/cm2 DBD treatment is the optimal DBD dosage to surface modify electrospun PLCL/PANi matrices balancing the need for improved surface wettability against polymer thermal degradation.REFERENCES 1.Sorkio A, Porter PJ et al (2015) Tissue Engineering Part A 21:2301-14. 2. D'Sa RA (2015) J Mater Sci Mater Med 26:260. 3 Wang M, Favi P, Cheng X, et al (2016) Acta Biomater 46:256-65. 4 Balint R, Cartmell SH. (2014). Acta Biomater 10:2341-53.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: PhD Funding from Department for the Economy (DfE) Studentship (Northern Ireland)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Jun 2018
EventUK Society for Biomaterials 2018 - University of Bath, UK, Bath, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 201829 Jun 2018


ConferenceUK Society for Biomaterials 2018
Abbreviated titleUKSB
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Plasma etching
  • Electrospinning
  • Conductive Polymers


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