The superlative mechanical properties of spider silk and its conspicuous variations have instigated significant interest over the past few years. However, current attempts to synthetically spin spider silk fibers often yield an inferior physical performance, owing to the improper molecular interactions of silk proteins. Considering this, herein, a post-treatment process to reorganize molecular structures and improve the physical strength of spider silk is reported. The major ampullate dragline silk from Nephila pilipes with a high β-sheet content and an adequate tensile strength was utilized as the study material, while that from Cyrtophora moluccensis was regarded as a reference. Our results indicated that the hydrothermal post-treatment (50-70 °C) of natural spider silk could effectively induce the alternation of secondary structures (random coil to β-sheet) and increase the overall tensile strength of the silk. Such advantageous post-treatment strategy when applied to regenerated spider silk also leads to an increment in the strength by ~2.5-3.0 folds, recapitulating ~90% of the strength of native spider silk. Overall, this study provides a facile and effective post-spinning means for enhancing the molecular structures and mechanical properties of as-spun silk threads, both natural and regenerated.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Polymers and Plastics