Water Based Spider Silk Films

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Faculty Mentor

Randy Lewis


Spider silk has exceptional mechanical and biocompatible properties. This project is focused on optimizing the mechanical properties of thin spider silk films made from a water based liquid dope. Applications for spider silk films are broad, ranging from physical protection to biocompatible materials. Examples of these applications include: high performance helmets, coatings for medical devices, skin implants, and lightweight UV protection. Spider silk's potential to serve as a cellular scaffold also holds great promise for the medical industry. The films can easily be impregnated with nanotubes, antibiotics, and other substances making it highly customizable. The protein that is focused on in this project will be the dragline silk because of its high tensile strength. Spider silk films are traditionally made using a strong solvent that is both expensive and toxic; this project presents a new method for solubilizing the protein and increases the mechanical properties more than 40 fold. The films have also been analyzed using NMR, XRD, and SEM to understand the surface properties and secondary structural make-up of the films in each processing step. The understanding of these properties will help in future studies to further increase mechanical properties. A proof of concept test was also done on the films embedding them with antibiotics and placed on a bacterial lawn, the result being a zone of inhibition around embedded films and not around water based film.

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