High-performance regenerated silkworm Bombyx mori silk fibers with new properties that mimic those of spider silk can be produced through a wet spinning process modified with an immersion postspinning drawing (IPSD) step. IPSD fibers show the ability to recover from irreversible deformation, and their tensile behavior can be tailored repeatedly, features solely exhibited until now by natural spider silk. It is further shown that the new properties emerge from a microstructure that is closer to that of spider than to natural silkworm silk. This work demonstrates that processing plays a role at least comparable to that of the amino acid sequence in the final properties of the material. The spinning process does not only modify the mechanical parameters of the fiber but also can even prompt the emergence of new properties, opening a wide range of new applications for regenerated silk fibers. It also represents a significant change of the paradigm in the field of biomimetics, given that it relaxes the condition of copying the natural protein sequences as close as possible to recover the outstanding properties of the natural materials.
Featured in: Jyllian Kemsley, Redesigning Silk, Chemical & ENgineering News, 87 (41), 13 (2009). Materials: Reprocessing confers spider-silk qualities on silkworm silk,