Nature’s top science images of 2017 features Dr Tucker’s research

An image captured from our Dr Nick Tucker’s research group in New Zealand at Plant and Food Research Ltd has been featured by Nature Research as one of the top science images of 2017.

The image shows a process known as 'electrospinning'.

The image shows a process known as ‘electrospinning’.

Electrospinning is a fibre spinning process that uses electrostatic force to draw fibres from a liquid polymer solution or melt. The principles of operation have been known since the early 1600s, and it has existed as a process since the mid 1800s.

The fibres can be used to detect and remove specific materials from a solution. So for example, in a foodstuff washing process, the aim is to remove specific say, bacterial contaminants, and also to indicate if the level of such micro-organisms is reaching a level that may cause concern.

The process has recently achieved widespread popularity in the laboratory as a method for the manufacture of continuous nano-scale fibres.

The Electrospinz machine

The Electrospinz machine

Dr Tucker’s research group undertook work that allowed the establishment of commercial electrospinning in New Zealand, and he is now working in the School of Engineering on a BBSRC funded joint venture with Dr. Emma Wright and Dr Lorna Lancaster of the School of Pharmacy to make smart filter materials with applications in food processing. These can be used to make structural articles, or very high specific surface area reactor substrates.

The Electrospinz machine is one of only two machines in the world – the School of Engineering is home to one.

Find out more about the School of Engineering.