Spider Silk

Spiderman?

Haven't you ever dreamt of being Spiderman? 
Sure you have.

And there are reasons for:  

  • Swinging around through the canyons of the metropolises of the world 
  • Falling down hundreds of meters and knowing you can catch yourself with your self-produced shroud line 
  • Catching thiefs with your gluey net 
  • Climbing up walls upside down 
  • Artificial proteins to mimic natural products

Even if this shows only some of the aspects of a spiders life, it gives nice insights in the numerous facilities that nature can show up. 

Spider silk fibers have extraordinary properties. Their extensibility can be 10-times higher than that of steel whereas they are equally strong and can absorb about 10 times more energy before they break!

Fig. 2 shows the toughness of two different types of spider silk, the dragline and the catchline, compared to a typical steel fiber. The thoughness is the deposited energy per unit area before the fiber ruptures.

In general biomaterials consiting of proteins are interesting for

  • Building strong fibers with very high strength
  • Encapsulation of materials for Food
  • Encapsulation of materials for pharmaceutical issues

The questions we are mostly interested in are

  • how are the fibers produced
  • what are the properties of the protein solutions
  • what can we learn about the behaviour of protein solutions

 

Work in our labs

The spider's fiber forming organ consists of a long duct, where chemical and flow effects take place simultaneously.

We try to reconstruct these conditions with microfluidic devices with various geometries. These allow us to emulate the flow fields and echange of chemical substances such as buffer solutions and changes in ion concentrations.

Microfluidic chamber