In the world of material engineering, there are two main concepts: material strength and the ability to expand. Strength is easy to understand, and scalability is important because it allows a material to be extended or stretched out, making many useful changes to the product.
Both are trade-offs: a stronger material, like steel, will not be as highly scalable, as rubber. But scientists from Aalto University and Finland's VTT Technical Research Center say they have developed a new biologically based material that can contain both of these properties. The scientists say they want to make materials like artificial spider silk and are more durable than spider silk.
The material derives from a combination of cellulose fibers from wood and proteins similar to silk found in spider webs.
"We used birch tree powder, made it into cellulose nanofibers and arranged them into a rigid structure.". Pezhman Mohammadi, a research scientist at VTT, said. "At the same time, we added to the cellulose network with a matrix of materials like soft and sticky spider silk. "
The team describes the outcome as "Very resilient and future resilient materials can replace plastic, as part of biosynthesis materials and in medical applications, surgical fibers, textile and packaging industries. packaging. "
Although the silk used in the material is an exact duplicate of what the spider produces, no spider is used to make the material. Instead, it is made with bacteria that have synthetic DNA.
Markus Linder, a professor at Aalto University, said: "Because we know the structure of DNA, we can copy it and use it to produce chemically similar protein molecules with silk fibers found in spider webs. The DNA contains all those this information. "
This new material is very promising, has potential for many different uses and it is also biodegradable. That means it won't harm the Earth in the way plastic is doing right now. And there won't be anything like tiny pieces of plastic released around the globe.