ROY Crystallization on Poly(ethylene) Fibers, a Model for Bed Net Crystallography

Bryan Erriah, Alexander G. Shtukenberg, Reese Aronin, Derik McCarthy, Petr Brázda, Michael D. Ward, Bart Kahr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many long-lasting insecticidal bed nets for protection against disease vectors consist of poly(ethylene) fibers in which insecticide is incorporated during manufacture. Insecticide molecules diffuse from within the supersaturated polymers to surfaces where they become bioavailable to insects and often crystallize, a process known as blooming. Recent studies revealed that contact insecticides can be highly polymorphic. Moreover, insecticidal activity is polymorph-dependent, with forms having a higher crystal free energy yielding faster insect knockdown and mortality. Consequently, the crystallographic characterization of insecticide crystals that form on fibers is critical to understanding net function and improving net performance. Structural characterization of insecticide crystals on bed net fiber surfaces, let alone their polymorphs, has been elusive owing to the minute size of the crystals, however. Using the highly polymorphous compound ROY (5-methyl-2-[(2-nitrophenyl)-amino]thiophene-3-carbonitrile) as a proxy for insecticide crystallization, we investigated blooming and crystal formation on the surface of extruded poly(ethylene) fibers containing ROY. The blooming rates, tracked from the time of extrusion, were determined by UV-vis spectroscopy after successive washes. Six crystalline polymorphs (of the 13 known) were observed on poly(ethylene) fiber surfaces, and they were identified and characterized by Raman microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and 3D electron diffraction. These observations reveal that the crystallization and phase behavior of polymorphs forming on poly(ethylene) fibers is complex and dynamic. The characterization of blooming and microcrystals underscores the importance of bed net crystallography for the optimization of bed net performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2432-2440
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 12 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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