Tuning bio-inspired skin–core structure of nascent fiber via interplay of polymer phase transitions
The properties of polymer fibers are determined by their inner structures. We performed dynamic Monte Carlo simulations of early-stage solidification in the fluid filaments of stretched polymer solutions after extrusion into a coagulation bath upon fiber spinning. We observed that the radial temperature gradient dominates polymer crystallization to form an oriented crystalline skin (from single to multiple layers), while the radial non-solvent influx dominates phase separation to form a concentrated but less oriented core. The skin–core structure offers fibers a balanced performance between strength and toughness similar to plant stems, which can be tuned by the interplay of phase transitions. Our molecular-level observations facilitate a systematic understanding of the microscopic mechanism of fiber-spinning, which will pave a way towards making excellent polymer fibers.