Silk fibers are super strong, but we want to extend that strength to different material forms. To do this, we reconstitute silk cocoons into solution.
David Kaplan‘s lab at Tufts University has established a good method to chemically reconstitute silk into solution. The cocoon (Step 1) is made up of two different proteins: the structural fibroin (what we often associated as silk) and a glue-like protein to hold to cocoon together. We remove this glue-like protein by boiling the cocoons; only a “fluff” of fibroin fibers are left over (Step 2). We can then take this “fluff” and chemically dissolve it into water (Step 3).
In collaboration with David, we published an article quantifying the degradation of the protein (from Step 1-2) during this process and looked into how this affects subsequently made materials. A more in depth summary and link to the publication can be found on the child page, Molecular Weight Distribution.