When you think of materials like steel or Kevlar, you get this impression that they are tough, durable, and strong. After all, Kevlar is used to help make bullet-proof vests as well as clothing that is resistant to cuts. It is also used in some sporting equipment due to the fact that it is durable but at the same time lightweight.
However, it seems that researchers could have made something even better. Engineers at the Washington University in St. Louis have developed artificial spider silk that is said to be stronger than steel and even tougher than Kevlar, and in some cases, might actually be tougher than some naturally-produced spider silks.
The engineers have actually worked with spider silk before but during the process, wondered if they were able to create something that was even better using synthetic biology. One of the problems that they faced early on was the production of beta-nanocrystals, something that spiders instinctively know how much to add during the spinning process, and this was something that humans had trouble figuring out.
However, the team later figured out a solution which was to introduce amyloid sequences that have a higher tendency to form beta-nanocrystals. As a result when introduced to the bacteria, it produced a hybrid polymeric amyloid protein with 128 repeating units that resulted in a fiber that has an average ultimate tensile strength of 1,000 megapascals.
Image credit – Washington University in St. Louis/Jingyao Li
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