Hydrophobic Material Made From Silk

Hydrophobic Material Made From Silk
Hydrophobic Material Made of Silk - alberto clemares expósito/iStock

According to a news release published Friday by Tufts University, scientists have discovered a way to create silk-based materials that do not stick to water and have non-stick properties superior to today's non-stick surfaces. It's all about breaking down the fibers at the simplest level into silk fibroin, the protein from which they are made.

According to Krishna Kumar, Robinson Professor of Chemistry at Tufts, “what makes silk such a unique material is not only that it can take on a wide variety of shapes and configurations, but that it can easily change its qualities by chemically manipulating silk fibroin.”

“If we want to produce silk fibroin orthopedic screws that are absorbed by the body at different rates, we adjust the chemistry,” he said. “We are changing the chemistry to develop a blood sensor that can identify oxygen, glucose or other blood components. In this study, we modified the silk fibroin to make it water resistant and were able to “adjust” the water repellency of the material.

Short chemical chains, known as perfluorocarbons, applied to the surface of silk fibroin allowed the researchers to achieve this high level of non-stickiness. These chains do not interact with proteins or other biological molecules in the body or react with other compounds.

The non-stick quality of the new material was then evaluated by scientists by examining how water beads up on its surface. They discovered that water was rejected on non-stick silk made into sticks with the highest concentration of perfluorocarbons and simply rolled in drops.

Even better, not just water has slipped through the non-stick silk, but anything that has water as a key ingredient.

A safer alternative to commercial non-stick coatings that pose the danger of chemicals being absorbed into the body is now possible using silk-based non-stick surfaces. The researchers claim that their technology has unlimited potential uses.

According to David Kaplan, Stern Family Professor of Engineering at Tufts, “our success in modifying silk to repel water extends our success in chemically modifying silk for other functions such as changing color, conducting an electric charge, or persisting or degrading in a biological environment. ”

Because it is a protein, silk is well suited for modular chemistry, which allows various functional components to be "attached" to a natural scaffold. This new material can be used in medical equipment as well as automobile windshields where raindrops run off easily without the need for wipers, metal coatings that help prevent rust, and fabrics that are easier to clean.

According to Julia Fountain, a graduate student in Kumar's lab and co-author of the study, "Modifying medical devices in a way that minimizes harmful interactions with water and other biological agents has the potential to maintain strength and integrity for as long as they are needed."

Silk is already relatively immunocompromised, so increasing its capacity to reject cells or other substances may increase its usefulness.

Study summary:
A biomaterial with high biocompatibility and minimal immunogenicity is silk fibroin protein. These properties have placed this material at the forefront for widespread application in stents, catheters and wound dressings. However, it has been difficult to increase its use and utility by changing the hydrophobicity of the silk fibroin protein.

We show that the water-soluble protein silk fibroin can be converted into a remarkable solvent-pourable hydrophobic polymer by adding perfluorocarbon chains to its surface. The fluorine content of the modified silk was clearly correlated with the hydrophobicity of the film. The most fancy silk fibroin protein had greater water contact angles than Teflon. We also show how water uptake is significantly reduced, lifetimes are increased and mechanical integrity is maintained in prefabricated silk rods. These findings demonstrate how easily non-native groups can be attached to the silk fibroin surface with moderately aggressive chemistry and will facilitate further research into potential uses of this adaptive biomaterial.

Source: interestingengineering

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