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Solutions on improving spider silk experimentation

JUL 21, 2023
Difference in experimental setup can lead to misconceptions on the mechanical properties of silk and bio-based fibers.
Solutions on improving spider silk experimentation internal name

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Spider silk may seem fragile, but it is one of the strongest, most useful fibers created by nature. Ancient civilizations used it as material for textiles; now, its biodegradable and biocompatible nature, in addition to its mechanical properties, attracts interest from fields such as biomedicine, robotics, and even aerospace engineering.

Materials science researchers are developing artificial spider silk to meet such industrial demands. Tensile tests are normally performed to determine the mechanical properties of both natural and artificial fibers. Despite the test’s simplicity, however, minute differences in experimental measures can create significant shifts in results.

Greco et al. noted discrepancies in the experimental methods of existing literature. No uniform practice exists in the field, and many key parameters are commonly unreported, resulting in a large amount of non-comparable data.

“In order to avoid misconceptions, we must discuss mechanical properties carefully,” said author Gabriele Greco. “The shape of the fiber and the methods used to obtain its mechanical properties are crucial aspects to consider when assigning a specific value to a fiber. “

The authors described how fiber morphology, test conditions, and methods affect experimental results. They also proposed guidelines for performing tensile tests on silk and bio-based fibers. Since materials science is a multidisciplinary field, reaching a consensus on experimental setup or the parameters to include in reports becomes especially important.

“Sometimes we rush towards the creation or discovery of new materials and properties without considering the basic knowledge required to support our findings,” said Greco. “We will work on building solid basic knowledge on silk-based material properties.”

Source: “Influence of experimental methods on the mechanical properties of silk fibers: A systematic literature review and future road map,” by Gabriele Greco, Benjamin Schmuck, S.K. Jalali, Nicola M. Pugno, and Anna Rising, Biophysics Reviews (2023). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0155552 .

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