Silk for sustainable composites

Darshil U. Shah1 and Fritz Vollrath2

''University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


Silk has a long, illustrious history as well as a strong following in today’s society. While the lustrous silk threads from the cocoons of the domesticated mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori have for millennia formed the basis of the sericulture industry and a hugely lucrative textile market, the technical properties of silks, especially spider silks, have attracted extensive research and development. Yet, today’s silks are still almost exclusively used in garments and textiles, barring some niche technical applications (e.g., in high-end, road-racing tubular tires). Described by many as the “holy grail” of materials science, silks represent a unique family of structural proteins offering a wide range of properties that could be very useful for composite materials, i.e., materials/products that combine silks with other materials.

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