Eastman Dental Institute


Molecularly Imprinted Polymers and Electrospinning

19 May 2020

Molecularly Imprinted Polymers and Electrospinning: Manufacturing Convergence for Next‐Level Applications

Kapil D. Patel*,  Hae‐Won Kim*,  Jonathan C. Knowles,  Alessandro Poma

Advanced Functional Materials

Micro‐ and especially nanofiber‐type materials are extremely attractive for a number of applications, ranging from separation and analysis to drug delivery and tissue engineering, and the majority of them are currently produced worldwide via the extremely popular and effective electrospinning technique.

The addition of specific tailored molecular recognition capability to these electrospun materials via the established molecular imprinting technology can be extremely beneficial for a number of applications, as indicated by the number of examples in the literature over the past 15 years. However, the integration of these two technologies has proven to be quite challenging, mainly due to the different processing methodologies which characterize the two approaches. 

In this progress report, the practical difficulties related to the combination of electrospinning and molecular imprinting and to the production of molecularly-imprinted electrospun fibers are addressed. We discuss the main aspects to take into consideration when designing and optimizing the experimental protocols, as well as highlight the most prolific research applications that have been explored thus far. We conclude with a commercial/industrial and economic perspective on the envisaged market for these hybrid products.

Findings include:

  • Molecular imprinting and electrospinning are of huge technological interest on their own, and the conjugation of these technologies deserves attention for the design and development of smart and functional nanomaterials.
  • Despite the unique advantages derived by producing MIPs via electrospinning, this research avenue currently remains poorly explored, due to processing and optimisation challenges.
  • Given the most recent developments on solid‐phase imprinted nanoparticles synthesis, we would envisage an increased production of hybrid electrospun-imprinted nanofibers in the coming years, for applications spanning from drug delivery, sensing/diagnostics, separation/filtration, bioremediation and waste removal, all the way up to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
  • We would also expect that the conjugation of the two technologies will actually accelerate the commercial exploitation of imprinted polymers, which has currently been extremely slow.

We are now planning to explore the conjugation of the two technologies for biomedical/tissue engineering applications, given the area of expertise amongst the authors perfectly covers the whole spectrum of disciplines highlighted in this progress report.

Read the full paper

* This study is part of our ongoing collaboration with Dankook University, South Korea. Find out more