Do natural silks make good engineering materials?

Natalie A. Morrison, Fraser I. Bell, Alexandre Beautrait, Joanne Ritchie, Christopher Smith, Iain J. McEwen, Christopher Viney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Fast relaxation of stresses lower than the yield stress is demonstrated in Bombyx mori (silkworm) cocoon silk and Nephila clavipes (spider) major ampullate silk (MAS; dragline). Stress relaxation and creep make natural silk unsuitable as a long-term load-bearing material. Instead, silk-like materials are better suited to applications in which energy dissipation is important, and in which high loads need to be withstood on a once-off basis for only very short periods of time. Examples might include use as a ballistic material that arrests the penetration of fragments from the explosion of a pressure vessel, an aircraft luggage container, or a tyre. Treatment in a domestic microwave oven is shown to significantly reduce the rate of stress relaxation in both silkworm cocoon and spider MAS. Except for ductility, the tensile properties of cocoon silk measured in constant strain rate experiments are enhanced by this treatment. Initial experiments on MAS suggest that the tensile properties of this material also are enhanced by exposure to microwaves, in this case with the exception of initial modulus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalMRS Online Proceedings Library
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventBiological and Bioinspired Materials and Devices - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: 13 Apr 200416 Apr 2004


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