July 2, 2015

Team led by Professor Seunghwa Ryu succeeds in computational modeling of artificial spider silks

New possibilities opened for synthesis of artificial bio-fib

(July 2, 2015)  A research team led by Professor Seunghwa Ryu of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has succeeded in the development of bioinspired silk fibers based on computational modeling.

Spider silks are as strong as steel and absorb as much energy as Kevlar fibers. However, mass production is not feasible due to the wild nature of spiders. Simulations at the atomic level are insufficient in reproducing interactions of multiple spider silks, making it more difficult to design artificial spider silks.

The team used computational simulations to show that high-strength fibers can be formed when molecules are aligned in one direction with a spinning process that emits protein-dissolved solutions through thin tubes. They observed that spider silks of greater strength were produced for longer chain lengths having adequate hydrophobic/hydrophilic block ratios.

After synthesizing reassembled spider proteins similar to those in actual spider silks, the team succeeded in producing artificial spider silks through a simple spinning process.

Using predictive modeling, Professor Ryu’s team identified various proteins and utilized this information in the design and production of bioinspired spider silks. The study has opened new possibilities for the synthesis of artificial bio-fibers.

Professor Ryu said, "In the future, it will be possible to create bio-fibers as strong as spider silks. Given its high biocompatibility, this new material is expected to have wide applications in biomedical fields.”

This study, jointly conducted by MIT, Florida State University, and Tufts University, was published in the online version of Nature Communications on May 28.

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