Mostafa Bedewy and colleagues made a transparent flexible material of silk and nanotubes

The silk fibers produced by Bombyx mori, the domestic silkworm, has been prized for millennia as a strong yet lightweight and luxurious material. Although synthetic polymers like nylon and polyester are less costly, they do not compare to silk’s natural qualities and mechanical properties. Bedewy and colleagues discovered that silk combined with carbon nanotubes may lead to a new generation of biomedical devices and so-called transient, biodegradable electronics.

They used microwave irradiation coupled with a solvent vapor treatment to provide a unique control mechanism for the protein structure and resulted in a flexible and transparent film comparable to synthetic polymers but one that could be both more sustainable and degradable. These regenerated silk fibroins and carbon nanotube films have potential for use in flexible electronics, biomedical devices and transient electronics such as sensors that would be used for a desired period inside the body ranging from hours to weeks, and then naturally dissolve. 

Their work “Promoting Helix-Rich Structure in Silk Fibroin Films through Molecular Interactions with Carbon Nanotubes and Selective Heating for Transparent Biodegradable Devices” (DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.8b00784) was featured on the Oct. 26 cover of the American Chemistry Society journal Applied Nano Materials.

Written by Paul Kovach. Read more here.

Image of Randall McKenzie/McKenzie Illustrations.