Nav: Home

Combination of wood fibers and spider silk could rival plastic

September 16, 2019

Achieving strength and extensibility at the same time has so far been a great challenge in material engineering: increasing strength has meant losing extensibility and vice versa. Now Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland researchers have succeeded in overcoming this challenge, inspired by nature.

The researchers created a truly new bio-based material by gluing together wood cellulose fibres and the silk protein found in spider web threads. The result is a very firm and resilient material which could be used in the future as a possible replacement for plastic, as part of bio-based composites and in medical applications, surgical fibres, textile industry and packaging.

According to Aalto University Professor Markus Linder, nature offers great ingredients for developing new materials, such as firm and easily available cellulose and tough and flexible silk used in this research. The advantage with both of these materials is that, unlike plastic, they are biodegradable and do not damage nature the same way micro-plastic do.

'Our researchers just need to be able to reproduce these natural properties', adds Linder, who was also leading the research.

'We used birch tree pulp, broke it down to cellulose nanofibrils and aligned them into a stiff scaffold. At the same time, we infiltrated the cellulosic network with a soft and energy dissipating spider silk adhesive matrix,' says Research Scientist Pezhman Mohammadi from VTT.

Silk is a natural protein which is excreted by animals like silkworms and also found in spider web threads. The spider web silk used by Aalto University researchers, however, is not actually taken from spider webs but is instead produced by the researchers using bacteria with synthetic DNA.

'Because we know the structure of the DNA, we can copy it and use this to manufacture silk protein molecules which are chemically similar to those found in spider web threads. The DNA has all this information contained in it', Linder explains.

'Our work illustrates the new and versatile possibilities of protein engineering. In future, we could manufacture similar composites with slightly different building blocks and achieve a different set of characteristics for other applications. Currently we are working on making new composite materials as implants, impact resistance objects and other products," says Pezhman.
-end-
The research project is part of the work of the the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Engineering of Biosynthetic Hybrid Materials (Hyber).

The research was publishes in Science Advances 13 September.

More information:


Markus Linder
Professor, Aalto University
+358 50 431 5525
markus.linder@aalto.fi

Pezhman Mohammadi
Research Scientist, VTT
+358 40 163 7835
pezhman.mohammadi@vtt.fi

Christopher Landowski
Research Team Leader, VTT
+358 40 482 0856
christopher.landowski@vtt.fi

Aalto University

Related Cellulose Articles:

Breaking down stubborn cellulose in time lapse
Researchers at Graz Unversity of Technology in Austria have for the first time ever succeeded in visualizing at the single-molecule level the processes involved in a biological nanomachine, known as the cellulosome, as it degrades crystalline cellulose.
Coffee grounds show promise as wood substitute in producing cellulose nanofibers
Researchers at Yokohama National University (YNU) meticulously examined cellulose nanofibers extracted from spent coffee grounds, identifying them as a viable new raw source.
Printing complex cellulose-based objects
Researchers from ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) have set a new world record: they 3D printed complex objects with higher cellulose content than that of any other additively manufactured cellulose-based parts.
How plants are built to be strong and responsive
Researchers have solved the long-standing mystery of how plants control the arrangement of their cellulose fibres.
VTT developed an optical fiber made of cellulose
VTT researchers were able to transmit light in wood-based fibre.
From nata de coco to computer screens: Cellulose gets a chance to shine
Scientists at Osaka University determined the intrinsic birefringence of cellulose molecules, which have great potential to improve smartphone and computer screens.
New cellulose-based material gives three sensors in one
Cellulose soaked in a carefully designed polymer mixture acts as a sensor to measure pressure, temperature and humidity -- at the same time!
Making xylitol and cellulose nanofibers from paper paste
The ecological bio-production of xylitol and cellulose nanofibers from material produced by the paper industry has been achieved by a Japanese research team.
From foam to bone: Plant cellulose can pave the way for healthy bone implants
Researchers from the University of British Columbia and McMaster University have developed what could be the bone implant material of the future: an airy, foamlike substance from plant cellulose that can be injected into the body and provide scaffolding for the growth of new bone.
Converting biomass by applying mechanical force
German nanoscientists have succeeded in demonstrating a new reaction mechanism to cleave cellulose efficiently.
More Cellulose News and Cellulose Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.