How to Build Better Silk

Polymorphic regenerated silk fibers assembled through bioinspired spinning.

A photograph shows regenerated helical silk fibers colored by Rhodamine dyes, under UV light.

January 1, 2018 | Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology , news.mit.edu, 9 Nov 2017, David L. Chandler

When it comes to concocting the complex mix of molecules that makes up fibers of natural silk, nature beats human engineering hands down. Despite efforts to synthesize the material, artificial varieties still cannot match the natural fiber’s strength.

But by starting with silk produced by silkworms, breaking it down chemically, and then reassembling it, engineers have found they can make a material that is more than twice as stiff as its natural counterpart and can be shaped into complex structures such as meshes and lattices.

The new material is dubbed regenerated silk fiber (RSF) and could find a host of applications in commercial and biomedical settings.