Nav: Home

Tough stuff: Spider silk enhanced with graphene-based materials

September 13, 2017

Researchers from the Graphene Flagship have demonstrated that graphene-based materials can be used to boost the properties of spider's silk. The silk - produced naturally by the spiders, incorporating graphene and carbon nanotubes (rolled up graphene sheets) introduced in their environment - had enhanced mechanical properties of up to three times the strength and ten times the toughness of the unmodified silks. The work is published in 2D Materials and was a collaboration between the University of Trento, Italy and the Cambridge Graphene Centre at the University of Cambridge, UK, within the Graphene Flagship's Polymer Composites Work Package.

Artificially modified biological materials are an expanding area of research. Natural materials can have properties that cannot be achieved with lab-produced materials, and taking inspiration from nature is an effective research tool

To enhance the spider's silk, the researchers prepared solutions of graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) which were sprayed within the enclosure the spiders were kept in. After allowing the spiders to ingest the graphene and CNT dispersions from their environment, silk was collected from the spiders and tested for graphene/CNT content and mechanical properties.

The silks showed enhanced mechanical properties compared to reference silks collected from the same spiders, with significant increases in the strength, toughness and elasticity of the biocomposite silk threads. The strongest silk threads had a fracture strength of up to 5.4 GPa, over 3 times as strong as the unmodified silks, as well as a tenfold increase of toughness modulus up to 2.1 GPa.

This study opens up new potentials for tailoring the properties of biological materials to enhance their properties for use in novel applications. For example, these artificially modified silks could find use in high-performance or biodegradable textiles such as parachutes or medical dressings.

"Humans have used silkworm silks widely for thousands of years, but recently research has focussed on spider silk, as it has promising mechanical properties. It is among the best spun polymer fibres in terms of tensile strength, ultimate strain, and especially toughness, even when compared to synthetic fibres such as Kevlar," said Nicola Pugno, of the University of Trento.

"We already know that there are biominerals present in the protein matrices and hard tissues of insects, which gives them high strength and hardness in their jaws, mandibles and teeth, for example. So our study looked at whether spider silk's properties could be 'enhanced' by artificially incorporating various different nanomaterials into the silk's biological protein structures," said Pugno.

"This is the highest fibre toughness reported to date, and a strength comparable to that of the strongest carbon fibres or limpet teeth," said Pugno. "These are still early days, but our results are a proof of concept that paves the way to exploiting the naturally efficient spider spinning process to produce reinforced bionic silk fibres, thus further improving one of the most promising strong materials."
-end-
Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship, and Chair of the Flagship's management panel, added "The interaction between graphene and related materials and bio-materials is key to broaden their possible applications. This is one of many examples showing potential in this area. This work can help us to design novel composites with enhanced properties, taking inspiration from nature"

Graphene Flagship

Related Graphene Articles:

New chemical method could revolutionize graphene
University of Illinois at Chicago scientists have discovered a new chemical method that enables graphene to be incorporated into a wide range of applications while maintaining its ultra-fast electronics.
Searching beyond graphene for new wonder materials
Graphene, the two-dimensional, ultra lightweight and super-strong carbon film, has been hailed as a wonder material since its discovery in 2004.
New method of characterizing graphene
Scientists have developed a new method of characterizing graphene's properties without applying disruptive electrical contacts, allowing them to investigate both the resistance and quantum capacitance of graphene and other two-dimensional materials.
Chemically tailored graphene
Graphene is considered as one of the most promising new materials.
Beyond graphene: Advances make reduced graphene oxide electronics feasible
Researchers have developed a technique for converting positively charged (p-type) reduced graphene oxide (rGO) into negatively charged (n-type) rGO, creating a layered material that can be used to develop rGO-based transistors for use in electronic devices.
The Graphene 2017 Conference connects Barcelona with the international graphene-based industry
This prestigious Conference to be held at the Barcelona International Convention Centre (March 28-31) aims to bring together academia and industry to integrate new graphene technologies into practical applications.
Graphene from soybeans
A breakthrough by CSIRO-led scientists has made the world's strongest material more commercially viable, thanks to the humble soybean.
First use of graphene to detect cancer cells
By interfacing brain cells onto graphene, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown they can differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell, pointing the way to developing a simple, noninvasive tool for early cancer diagnosis.
Development of graphene microwave photodetector
DGIST developed cryogenic microwave photodetector which is able to detect 100,000 times smaller light energy compared to the existing photedetectors.
Adding hydrogen to graphene
IBS researchers report a fundamental study of how graphene is hydrogenated.

Related Graphene Reading:

Graphene: Fundamentals and emergent applications
by Jamie H. Warner (Author), Franziska Schaffel (Author), Mark Rummeli (Author), Alicja Bachmatiuk (Author)

Providing fundamental knowledge necessary to understand graphene’s atomic structure, band-structure, unique properties and an overview of groundbreaking current and emergent applications, this new handbook is essential reading for materials scientists, chemists and physicists.

Since the 2010 physics Nobel Prize awarded to Geim and Novosolev for their groundbreaking work isolating graphene from bulk graphite, there has been a huge surge in interest in the area. This has led to a large number of news books on graphene. However, for such a vast inflow of new entrants, the current... View Details


Graphene: A New Paradigm in Condensed Matter and Device Physics
by E. L. Wolf (Author)

The book is an introduction to the science and possible applications of Graphene, the first one-atom-thick crystalline form of matter. Discovered in 2004 by now Nobelists Geim and Novoselov, the single layer of graphite, a hexagonal network of carbon atoms, has astonishing electrical and mechanical properties. It supports the highest electrical current density of any material, far exceeding metals copper and silver. Its absolute minimum thickness, 0.34 nanometers, provides an inherent advantage in possible forms of digital electronics past the era of Moore's Law.

The book describes the... View Details


Graphene: Fundamentals, Devices, and Applications
by Serhii Shafraniuk (Author)

Graphene is the first example of two-dimensional materials and is the most important growth area of contemporary research. It forms the basis for new nanoelectronic applications. Graphene, which comprises field-effect structures, has remarkable physical properties.

This book focuses on practical applications determined by the unique properties of graphene. Basic concepts are elucidated by end-of-chapter problems, the answers to which are provided in the accompanying solutions manual. The mechanisms of electric and thermal transport in the gated graphene, interface phenomena,... View Details


Graphene: Carbon in Two Dimensions
by Mikhail I. Katsnelson (Author)

Graphene is the thinnest known material, a sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal cells a single atom thick, and yet stronger than diamond. It has potentially significant applications in nanotechnology, 'beyond-silicon' electronics, solid-state realization of high-energy phenomena and as a prototype membrane which could revolutionise soft matter and 2D physics. In this book, leading graphene research theorist Mikhail Katsnelson presents the basic concepts of graphene physics. Topics covered include Berry phase, topologically protected zero modes, Klein tunneling, vacuum reconstruction... View Details


The Chemistry Book: From Gunpowder to Graphene, 250 Milestones in the History of Chemistry (Sterling Milestones)
by Derek B Lowe (Author)

From atoms and fluorescent pigments to sulfa drug synthesis and buckyballs, this lush and authoritative chronology presents 250 milestones in the world of chemistry. As the "central science" that bridges biology and physics, chemistry plays an important role in countless medical and technological advances. Covering entertaining stories and unexpected applications, chemist and journalist Derek B. Lowe traces the most important—and surprising—chemical discoveries. View Details


Graphene: Energy Storage and Conversion Applications (Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion)
by Zhaoping Liu (Author), Xufeng Zhou (Author)

Suitable for readers from broad backgrounds, Graphene: Energy Storage and Conversion Applications describes the fundamentals and cutting-edge applications of graphene-based materials for energy storage and conversion systems. It provides an overview of recent advancements in specific energy technologies, such as lithium ion batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells, solar cells, lithium sulfur batteries, and lithium air batteries. It also considers the outlook of industrial applications in the near future. Offering a brief introduction to the major synthesis methods of graphene, the... View Details


Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World
by Les Johnson (Author), Joseph E. Meany (Author)

Two scientists give an enthusiastic, layperson's overview of a new supermaterial now in development that could transform many features of daily life, from creating new conveniences to improving health and safety.

What if you discovered an infinitesimally thin material capable of conducting electricity, able to suspend millions of times its own weight, and yet porous enough to filter the murkiest water? And what if this incredible substance is created from the same element that fills the common pencil? That's graphene--a flat, two-dimensional, carbon-based molecule with a single... View Details


Graphene: Synthesis and Applications (Nanomaterials and their Applications)
by Wonbong Choi (Editor), Jo-won Lee (Editor)

Since the late 20th century, graphene―a one-atom-thick planar sheet of sp2-bonded carbon atoms densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice―has garnered appreciable attention as a potential next-generation electronic material due to its exceptional properties. These properties include high current density, ballistic transport, chemical inertness, high thermal conductivity, optical transmittance, and super hydrophobicity at nanometer scale.

In contrast to research on its excellent electronic and optoelectronic properties, research on the syntheses of a single sheet of... View Details


Graphene
by Caravan Publishing

A scientific genius escapes from Soviet Russia with his wife. They have nothing, but the help of a stranger starts him on his way to accumulating a fortune, with a steady flow of inventions. He finds graphene, a miracle material that has almost unimaginable qualities, but can only be extracted in minute quantities. Leonid sees the potential of the product for the entire world and, together with Marina, his daughter, he develops a means to produce the material cheaply enough to compete with almost every existing product that it can replace. He fails to reckon with big business, and the... View Details


Graphene: Structural, electronic and vibrational properties of n-layer graphene with and without doping : A theoretical study
by Srijan Kumar Saha (Author)

Graphene - a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice of sp2-bonded carbon atoms - has been attracting a great deal of research interest since its first experimental realization in 2004, due to its various novel properties and its potential for applications in futuristic nanodevices. Many of its applications require tuning of its properties, which can be achieved by varying the number of layers or/and by doping. There are several ways to dope graphene: (i) electrochemically gated doping, (ii) molecular charge-transfer doping, and (iii) substitutional doping by atoms like Boron or Nitrogen.... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."