A quantitative study of the effect of flow on the photopolymerization of fibers.
Pulsed-UV light in the continuous flow of a photo-crosslinkable liquid can result in gelation and is a useful method to produce soft microfibers with uniform sizes. With modeling and experiments, we characterize some aspects of this fiber fabrication process. We model the spatial concentration profiles of radical species and molecular oxygen in the flow direction during light exposure, and predict the critical conditions for the onset of fiber formation and compare these predictions with experimental observations. We also characterize the different regimes of microfiber production (no polymerization, non-uniform fibers, and uniform microfibers), qualitatively characterize the rigidity of the fibers, and demonstrate that we can predictably control the length of the produced microfibers for a range of process parameters.