Nanotechnology News
Spinning like the spider could cut energy cost of synthetic polymer fibers by 90%
5 years, 7 months ago Posted in: Nanotechnology News 0

By Michael Berger SOURCE:

The fiber front formation in both polyethylene and silk dope as observed in situ by shear-induced polarized light imaging (SIPLI) technique. (Image: Dr. Mykhaylyk, University of Sheffield and Oxford Silk Group, University of Oxford)

12/07/2011 — Researchers have, for the first time, compared the energetic cost of silk and synthetic polymer fiber formation and demonstrated that, if we can learn how to spin like the spider, we should be able to cut the energy costs for polymer fiber processing by 90%, leaving alone the heat treatment requirements. The two routes of polymer fiber-spinning – one developed by nature and the other developed by man – show striking similarities: both start with liquid feed-stocks sharing comparable flow properties; in both cases the ‘melts’ are extruded through convergent dye designs; and for both ‘spinning’ results in highly ordered semicrystalline fibrous structures. In other words, analogous to the industrial melt spinning of a synthetic polymer, in the natural spinning of a silk the molecules (proteins) align (refold), nucleate (denature) and crystallize (aggregate).

“We propose, that the key to this massive energy saving is through nature’s use of a state of matter that is neither an isotropic polymer melt nor a true aqueous solution,” Dr. Oleksandr O. Mykhaylyk, a researcher at the University of Sheffield’s Polymer Scattering Group, tells Nanowerk. “Much like an individual polymer chain in a melt, silk proteins and their associated water molecules may be considered as a single processable entity, a nanocomposite state of biological matter we define as an ‘aquamelt’. This newly defined state of biological matter is a nanocomposite consisting of water and protein bound by an energetic threshold which – if exceeded – causes an irreversible transformation from behaving like a polymer melt to a phase-separated fibrillar network and water as a by-product.”

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