Can safely degrade and realize industrialized production of

  "vegan spider silk" products, which can replace disposable plastics

  Science and Technology Daily, Beijing, June 10 (intern reporter Zhang Jiaxin) Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom imitated the properties of one of the strongest materials in nature-spider silk, and created a plant-based, sustainable, and scalable Polymer film.

This new material is as strong as many ordinary plastics in use today, and can replace the disposable plastics in many ordinary household products.

At the same time, the material can be safely degraded in most natural environments without industrial composting equipment, and it can also be industrialized and mass-produced.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications on the 10th.

  Professor Tumas Knowles of the Youssef Hamid Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, who led the research, said that one of the key reasons why materials such as spider silk are so strong is that the hydrogen bonds are regularly arranged in space. And the density is very high.

  Protein has the tendency of molecular self-organization and self-assembly, especially plant protein, which is a by-product of the food industry, is rich in content and can be obtained sustainably.

The co-author of the study, Dr. Mark Rodríguez Garcia, studied how to replicate this regular self-arrangement in other proteins.

  Researchers use soy protein isolate (SPI) as a test plant protein because SPI is easily available as a by-product of soybean oil production.

However, plant proteins like SPI have poor solubility in water, so it is difficult to control their self-assembly into an ordered structure.

This time, by using SPI, they succeeded in replicating a spider silk-like structure without spiders, the so-called "vegan spider silk."

  The new technology uses an environmentally friendly mixture of acetic acid and water, combined with ultrasound and high temperature, to improve the solubility of SPI.

The protein structure produced by this method has enhanced intermolecular interaction under the guidance of hydrogen bond formation.

In the second step, the solvent is removed, thereby forming a water-insoluble film.

  Knowles said: "Because all proteins are composed of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions, we can make plant proteins self-assemble like spider silk." The silk protein in the spider's body is dissolved in an aqueous solution and then spun The silk process gathers very strong fibers, and the process requires very little energy.

  This material has performance equivalent to high-performance engineering plastics such as low-density polyethylene.

Chemical crosslinking is often used to improve the performance and resistance of biopolymer films.

The most commonly used cross-linking agents are unsustainable and may even be toxic. The advantage of this new material is the regular arrangement of the polypeptide chains, which means that chemical cross-linking is not required, so this technology no longer uses toxic elements.


  The magical workmanship of nature has shaped the magical properties of spiders.

It is the long natural selection that contributed to the spider silk, which is composed of more than 2500 nanowires, but is extremely thin and possesses both strength and toughness.

It is still one of the important research goals in the field of bionics.

Deciphering and simulating spider silk is not only helpful to the development of modern technology, but also contributes an important force to environmental protection, just like the research in this article.