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Structuring Spider Silk

Spider silk is a fascinating material that has received an increasing amount of attention in the last three decades. While the material has been used by humans for centuries, starting out as fishing lines and wound dressings, producing it in large quantities comes with it own set of challenges. Not only are spiders territorial and cannibalistic, but they also produce a very limited amount of silk. Thus, until the 1990s when researchers realized synthetic production of spider silk proteins (spidroins) using spider silk was a far-fetched dream.

Today it is possible to produce spider silk proteins in large amounts using E. Coli bacteria. In addition, scientists have also been able to functionalize the spidroins, resulting in bio-functional spidroins. However, challenges still exist when it comes to transforming the soluble spidroins into solid, water insoluble silk under biologically compatible conditions, retaining the bio-functionality of the spidroins.

In this project we utilize the fact that spidroins spontaneously self-assemble into insoluble silk at hydrophobic:hydrophilic interfaces. By manipulating microdroplets of spidroin solution on superhydrophobic surfaces we can control the silk formation, resulting in three different types of silk formation, see picture below. 


You can learn more about this project by checking out this short video, reading this article, or by listening to this lecture by Professor Wouter van der Wijngaart. 


Project Members:

Linnea Gustafsson, Ronnie Jansson, My Hedhammar, and Prof. Wouter van der Wijngaart


Publications related to this project:

Structuring of Functional Spider Silk Wires, Coatings, and Sheets by Self‐Assembly on Superhydrophobic Pillar Surfaces

Controlled Formation of Spider Silk Nanowires, Localized Surface Coatings, and Sheets Using Superhydrophobic Surfaces


Project Sponsors:

Swedish Research Council (VR) and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW)

Profile picture of Linnea Gustafsson