Natural silk is a remarkable natural fibre produced by silkworms, spiders and other arthropods. For example, spider silk is the strongest known natural fibre, with a toughness that exceeds Kevlar. Silkworm silk is highly versatile, being used for centuries as a textile and, more recently, as a biomaterial for anything from sutures to biodegradable cell scaffolds or for drug delivery. Despite its simple appearance, silk fibres hide an intricate and highly organised hierarchy of microstructure, mesostructured and nanostructure that gives silk it's remarkable properties. Despite this knowledge, there are key unanswered questions regarding its nano and mesostructured that mean that this deceptively simple fibre cannot be replicated in the lab.
Our group has significant expertise in producing materials from silk with applications ranging from textiles to biomedical materials. We also have world class expertise in fibre wet spinning.
This project aims to develop new methods to deconstruct silkworm silk and wet spin it into new fibres with remarkable and controllable properties. The project will involve:
- Developing new methods to produce silk nanofibres from native silk using a combination of milling, homogenisation and spray drying.
- Developing wet spun silk fibres using Deakin’s state-of-the-art wet spinning and drawing facilities.
- Studying the structure and properties of the developed materials using a range of methods such as scanning electron microscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, micromechanical tensile testing and x-ray crystallography at the Australian Synchrotron.
Studying the in vitro degradation behaviour of silk fibres to guide the future development of biomaterials