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Engineers create programmable silk based materials

  Tufts University engineers have created a new format of solids which is based on silk protein that can be programmed with biological, chemical or optical functions, such as mechanical components that change color with strain, deliver drugs or respond to light, according to a paper published online this week in proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
  Using a water-based method based on protein self-assembly. the researchers generated 3D bulk materials out of silk fibrion. Then they manipulated the bulk materials with water soluble molecules to create multiple solid forms, from the nano- to the micro-scale.
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  For example: researchers created a surgical pin that changes color as it nears its mechanical limits and is about to fall, functional screws that can be heated on demand in response to infrared light, and a bio-compatible component that enables the sustained release of bio-active agents, such as enzymes.
  Silk’s unique crystalline structure makes it one of the nature’s toughest materials. Fibrion, an insoluble protein found in silk, has a remarkable ability to protect other materials while being fully bio-compatible and bio-degradable.

The ability to embed functional elements in bio-polymers, control their self-assembly and modify their ultimate form creates significant opportunities for bio-inspired fabrication of high-performing multi-functional materials. – said senior and corresponding study author Florenzo G. Omenetto, Ph.D.

Omenetto is the Frank C. Doble professor in the depertment of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University’s School of Engineering and also has an appoinment in the depertment of Physics in the School of Arts & Sciences.

Source: Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA.
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