Spider silk as a model biomaterial
Vollrath F., Porter D.
Spider silk combines strength and extensibility, and a wide range of mechanical properties can be achieved with only minute (if any) changes in chemical structure. It appears that the full range of thermo-mechanical properties of such silk fibres can be predicted by examining the energy imparted during stretching with the theoretical framework provided by Mean Field Theory for Polymers. This approach attempts to integrate strain and tensile stress with a range of relevant energetic and mechanical parameters such as the loss tangent and potential energy of atomic inter-chain bonding as well as the tensile and bulk elastic moduli. The model reveals that the underlying design principle of silks seems to share an inherent and surprising simplicity at the macromolecular level. We conclude that our modelling approach allows in-depth analysis of natural silks as well as a comparison with synthetic fibres. © Springer-Verlag 2005.