Mechanical properties of silkworm silk in liquid media

J. Pérez-Rigueiro, C. Viney, J. Llorca, M. Elices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (SciVal)


Tensile tests have been performed on silkworm silk fibres submerged in liquid environments (water, acetone, ethanol and isopropanol). Liquid media were initially chosen in order to weaken non-covalent interactions specifically. However, only immersion in water leads to a decrease in the mechanical properties of silk, indicating the weakening of hydrogen bonds. Immersion in acetone, ethanol and isopropanol leads to an increase in the stiffness of the fibre. In addition, all three organic solvents produce similar force-displacement curves, which can be explained by the desiccating effect that these solvents exert on silk. These results indicate that water disrupts hydrogen bonds initially present in the amorphous phase, while the other solvents eliminate water and contribute to the formation of new hydrogen bonds in the amorphous phase of silk. This interpretation was developed through the shear lag model of the elastic modulus (E) of silk, and a good agreement has been found between the model and the experimental values of E.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8433-8439
Number of pages7
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2000


  • Elastic modulus
  • Silkworm silk
  • Tensile properties


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