Microfluidic device creates spider silk

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Spider's silk has many noteworthy characteristics. It is waterproof, stretchable, and has high tensile strength. Silk-like materials have been created in research labs, but the features of real spider silk have not yet been matched by these products. Researchers at the Munich Technical University in Germany have created a microfluidic assembly device, featuring a trident-shaped design and storage chamber, inspired by the spinning duct spiders use to spin their silk. An aqueous solution of spider silk proteins is sent along tubes that make up the trident shape, where they are exposed to potassium phosphate. This makes them aggregate into microscopic spheres. The pH is then altered to be more acidic, allowing the proteins to attach together to form chains. The proteins are then forced through a microscopic opening, drawing them into fibers. Scientists at the University of Bayreuth are working to develop a biomimetic spinning apparatus for potential industrial use.

Key Differentiators

Previous efforts to produce spider silk have turned to inserting a gene into goats to produce silk in their milk, which is not biomimicry.

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Investigating how spiders spin their silk, researchers unravel a key step

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