In the late 16th century William Gilbert set out to describe the behavior of magnetic
and electrostatic phenomena. He observed that when a suitably electrically charged
piece of amber was brought near a droplet of water it would form a cone shape and
small droplets would be ejected from the tip of the cone: this is the first recorded
observation of electrospraying. In 1887 C. V. Boys described “the old, but little
known experiment of electrical spinning”. Boys’ apparatus consisted of “a small
dish, insulated and connected with an electrical machine”. He found that as his
stock liquid reached the edge of the dish, that he could draw fibers from a number
of materials including shellac, beeswax, sealing-wax, gutta-percha and collodion.
The process of electrospinning was patented by J.F. Cooley in May 1900 and February
1902 and by W.J. Morton in July 1902. In 1914 John Zeleny, published work on the
behavior of fluid droplets at the end of metal capillaries. His effort began the
attempt to mathematically model the behavior of fluids under electrostatic forces.
Further developments toward commercialization were made by Anton Formhals, and described
in a sequence of patents from 1934 to 1944 for the fabrication of textile yarns.
Electrospinning from a melt rather than a solution was patented by C.L. Norton in
1936 using an air-blast to assist fiber formation. In 1938 Nathalie D. Rozenblum
and Igor V. Petryanov-Sokolov, working in Nikolai A. Fuchs' group at the Aerosol
Laboratory of the L. Ya. Karpov Institute in the USSR, generated electrospun fibers,
which they developed into filter materials known as "Petryanov filters". By 1939,
this work had led to the establishment of a factory in Tver' for the manufacture
of electrospun smoke filter elements for gas masks. The material, dubbed BF (Battlefield
Filter) was spun from cellulose acetate in a solvent mixture of dichloroethane and
ethanol. By the 1960s output of spun filtration material was claimed as 20 million
m2 per annum Between 1964 and 1969 Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor produced the theoretical
underpinning of electrospinning. Taylor’s work contributed to electrospinning by
mathematically modeling the shape of the cone formed by the fluid droplet under
the effect of an electric field; this characteristic droplet shape is now known
as the Taylor cone. He further worked with J. R. Melcher to develop the "leaky dielectric
model" for conducting fluids.
In the early 1990s several research groups (notably that of Reneker and Rutledge
who popularised the name electrospinning for the process) demonstrated that many
organic polymers could be electrospun into nanofibers. Since then, the number of
publications about electrospinning has been increasing exponentially every year.
Since 1995 there have been further theoretical developments of the driving mechanisms
of the electrospinning process. Reznik et al. described the shape of the Taylor
cone and the subsequent ejection of a fluid jet. Hohman et al. investigated the
relative growth rates of the numerous proposed instabilities in an electrically
forced jet once in flight and endeavors to describe the most important instability
to the electrospinning process, the bending (whipping) instability.