Skip to main content Accessibility help

The science of silks

  • F. Vollrath (a1), D. Porter (a2) and C. Holland (a3)


Comparative silk research has begun to provide us with valuable insights into a class of biopolymers that have evolved an enormous range of material performance based on highly adapted structure-property interactions. As outlined in this article, such insights cover the analysis of biological and bioinspired spinning technologies, the discovery of a novel type of melt spinning at ambient temperatures, and an advanced predictive modeling framework that uses ab initio calculations. Importantly, the huge diversity and extensive range of material properties found in natural silks is providing a fertile field for discoveries that could change the polymer paradigm and our approach to using proteins as structural materials. For example, highly relevant to both sustainability and engineering properties is the role of water in silk processing and function, as this article will explore in some detail.



Hide All
1.Altman, G.H., Diaz, F., Jakuba, C.. Calabro, T., Horan, R.L., Chen, J.S., Lu, H., Richmond, J., Kaplan, D.L., Biomaterials, 24, 401 (2003).
2.Omenetto, F.G., Kaplan, D.L., Science 329, 528 (2010).
3.Vollrath, F., Porter, D., Holland, C., Soft Matter 7, 9595 (2011).
4.Holland, C., Vollrath, F., in Biologically Inspired Textiles, Ellison, M.S., Abbott, A.G., Eds. (Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, UK, 2008).
5.Sutherland, T.D., Young, J.H., Weisman, S., Hayashi, C.Y., Merritt, D.J., Annu. Rev. Entomol. 55, 171 (2010).
6.Eisoldt, L., Smith, A., Scheibel, T., Mater. Today 14, 80 (2011).
7.Vollrath, F., Curr. Biol. 15, 364 (2005).
8.Chen, F., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., J. R. Soc. Interface 9 (74), 2299 (2012).
9.Holland, C.A., Terry, A.E., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Nat. Mater. 5, 870 (2006).
10.Vollrath, F., Knight, D.P., Nature 410, 541 (2001).
11.Dicko, C., Porter, D., Bond, J.E., Kenney, J.M., Vollrath, F., Biomacromolecules (2007).
12.Dicko, C., Kenney, J.M., Vollrath, F., in Advances in Protein Chemistry, Kajava, A., Squire, J.M., Parry, D.A.D., Eds. (Elsevier, NY, 2006), vol. 73, pp. 1753.
13.Vollrath, F., Porter, D., Soft Matter 2, 377 (2006).
14.Lucas, F., Rudall, K., Compr. Biochem. 26 (B), 475 (1968).
15.Hayashi, C.Y., Lewis, R.V., Science 287, 1477 (2000).
16.Yonemura, N., Sehnal, F.E., J. Mol. Evol. 63, 42 (2006).
17.Asakura, T., Umemura, K., Nakazawa, Y., Hirose, H., Higham, J., Knight, D., Biomacromolecules 8, 175 (2007).
18.Moriya, M., Roschzttardtz, F., Nakahara, Y., Saito, H., Masubuchi, Y., Asakura, T., Biomacromolecules 10, 929 (2009).
19.Holland, C., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Biopolymers 97, 362 (2012).
20.Holland, C., Vollrath, F., Ryan, A.J., Mykhaylyk, O.O., Adv. Mater. 24, 105 (2012).
21.Chen, F., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Phys. Rev. E: Stat. Nonlinear Soft Matter Phys. 82, 041911 (2010).
22.Vollrath, F., Porter, D., Polymer 50, 5623 (2009).
23.Liu, Y., Sponner, A., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Biomacromolecules 12 (11), 4030 (2007).
24.Vollrath, F., Madsen, B., Shao, Z., Proc. R. Soc. 268, 2339 (2001).
25.Shao, Z.Z., Vollrath, F., Nature 418, 741 (2002).
26.Riekel, C., Madsen, B., Knight, D., Vollrath, F., Biomacromolecules 1, 622 (2000).
27.Riekel, C., Vollrath, F., Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 29, 203 (2001).
28.Young, R.J., Sirichaisit, J., Shao, Z., Vollrath, F., in The New Polymers: Science, Technology and Applications (Institute of Physics, London, 1998).
29.Knight, D.P., Knight, M.M., Vollrath, F., Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 27, 205 (2000).
30.Craig, C., Annu. Rev. Entomol. 42, 231 (1997).
31.Knight, D., Vollrath, F., Tissue Cell 31, 617 (1999).
32.Akai, H., J. Seric. Sci. Jpn. 55, 163 (1986).
33.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Adv. Mater. 21, 487 (2009).
34.Magoshi, J., Magoshi, Y., Nakamura, S., Appl. Polym. Symp. 41, 187 (1985).
35.Akai, H., Imai, T., Tsubouchi, K., J. Seric. Sci. Jpn. 56, 131 (1987).
36.Viney, C., Supramol. Sci. 4, 75 (1997).
37.Knight, D.P., Vollrath, F., Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. B 266, 519 (1999).
38.Asakura, T., Yao, J., Yang, M., Zhu, Z., Hirose, H., Polymer 48, 2064 (2007).
39.Chen, G.-Y., Cuculo, J.A., Tucker, P.A., J. Polym. Sci., Part B: Polym. Phys. 30, 557 (1992).
40.Kerkam, K., Viney, C., Kaplan, D., Lombardi, S., Nature 349, 596 (1991).
41.Zhong, X., Zhou, P., Shao, Z.Z., Chen, S.M., Chen, X., Hu, B.W., Deng, F., Yao, W.H., Biochemistry 43, 11932 (2004).
42.Magoshi, J., Magoshi, Y., Kato, M., Becker, M.A., Nakamura, S., Abstr. Pap. Am. Chem. Soc. 214, 209 (1997).
43.Dicko, C., Kenney, J.M., Knight, D., Vollrath, F., Biochemistry 43, 14080 (2004).
44.Dicko, C., Knight, D., Kenney, J.M., Vollrath, F., Biomacromolecules 5, 758 (2004).
45.Dicko, C., Knight, D., Vollrath, F., Kenney, J.M., Biochemistry 43, 14080 (2004).
46.Foo, C.W.P., Bini, E., Hensman, J., Knight, D.P., Lewis, R.V., Kaplan, D.L., Appl. Phys. A 82, 223 (2006).
47.Vollrath, F., Knight, D.P., Hu, X.W., Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. B 265, 817 (1998).
48.Dicko, C., Vollrath, F., Kenney, J.M., Biomacromolecules 5, 704 (2004).
49.Knight, D.P., Vollrath, F., Naturwissenschaften 88, 179 (2001).
50.Meyer, K.H., Jeannerat, J., Helv. Chim. Acta 22, 22 (1939).
51.Ochi, A., Nemoto, N., Magoshi, J., Ohyama, E., Hossain, K.S., J. Soc. Rheol. Jpn. 30, 289 (2002).
52.Terry, A.E., Knight, D.P., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Biomacromolecules 5, 768 (2004).
53.Kojic, N., Bico, J., Clasen, C., McKinley, G.H., J. Exp. Biol. 209, 4355 (2006).
54.Moriya, M., Ohgo, K., Masubuchi, Y., Asakura, T., Polymer 49, 952 (2008).
55.Boulet-Audet, M., Vollrath, F., Holland, C., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 13, 3979 (2011).
56.Holland, C., Urbach, J.S., Blair, D.L., Soft Matter 8, 2590 (2012).
57.Holland, C., Terry, A.E., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Polymer 48, 3388 (2007).
58.Ohgo, K., Bagusat, F., Asakura, T., Scheler, U., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 4182 (2008).
59.Rössle, M., Panine, P., Urban, V.S., Riekel, C., Biopolymers 74, 316 (2004).
60.Arevalo, R.C., Urbach, J.S., Blair, D.L., Biophys. J. 99, L65 (2010).
61.Schmoller, K.M., Fernandez, P., Arevalo, R.C., Blair, D.L., Bausch, A.R., Nat. Commun. 1, 134 (2010).
62.Putthanarat, S., Stribeck, N., Fossey, S.A., Eby, R.K., Adams, W.W., Polymer 41, 7735 (2000).
63.Poza, P., Perez-Rigueiro, J., Elices, M., Llorca, J., Eng. Fract. Mech. 69, 1035 (2002).
64.Hakimi, O., Knight, D.P., Knight, M.M., Grahn, M.F., Vadgama, P., Biomacromolecules 7, 2901 (2006).
65.Guan, J., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Polymer 53 (13), 2717 (2012).
66.Drodge, D.R., Mortimer, B., Holland, C., Siviour, C.R., J. Mech. Phys. Solids 60 (10), 1710 (2012).
67.Tsukada, M., Freddi, G., Crighton, J.S., J. Polym. Sci. Pol. Phys. 32, 243 (1994).
68.Mykhaylyk, O.O., Soft Matter 6, 4430 (2010).
69.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Soft Matter 4, 328 (2008).
70.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1824 (6), 785 (2012).
71.Vollrath, F., Porter, D., Holland, C., Soft Matter 7, 9595 (2011).
72.Fu, C., Shao, Z., Fritz, V., Chem. Commun. 6515 (2009).
73.Chung, H., Kim, T.Y., Lee, S.Y., Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 23, 957 (2012).
74.Hudspeth, M., Nie, X., Chen, W., Lewis, R., Biomacromolecules 13 (8), 2240 (2012).
75.Porter, D., Guan, J., Vollrath, F., Adv. Mat., in press (2013), doi 10.1002/adma.201204158.
76.Chen, F., Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Acta Biomater. 8 (7), 2620 (2011).
77.Termonia, Y., Macromolecules 27, 7378 (1994).
78.Keten, S., Xu, Z., Ihle, B., Buehler, M.J., Nat. Mater. 9 (4), 359 (2010).
79.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1824 (6), 785 (2012).
80.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Nanotoday 2, 6 (2007).
81.Porter, D., Vollrath, F., Shao, J.Z., Eur. Phys. J. E 16, 199 (2005).
82.Blackledge, T.A., Boutry, C., Wong, S.C., Baji, A., Dhinojwala, A., Sahni, V., Agnarsson, I., J. Exp. Biol. 212 (Pt. 13), 1981 (2009).
83.Sutherland, T.D., Campbell, P.M., Weisman, S., Trueman, H.E., Sriskantha, A., Wanjura, W.J., Haritos, V.S., Genome Res. 16 (11), 1414 (2006).
84.Xia, X.-X., Qian, Z.G., Ki, C.S., Park, Y.H., Kaplan, D.L., Lee, S.Y., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107 (32), 14059 (2010).
85.Lazaris, A., Arcidiacono, S., Huang, Y., Zhou, J.F., Duguay, F., Chretien, N., Welsh, E.A., Soares, J.W., Karatzas, C.N., Science 295, 472 (2002).
86.Yan, J., Zhou, G., Knight, D.P., Shao, Z., Chen, X., Biomacromolecules 11 (1), 1 (2009).
87.Pauli, G., The Blue Economy (Paradigm Publications, Taos, NM, 2010), p. 336.
88.Kenney, J.M., Knight, D., Wise, M.J., Vollrath, F., Eur. J. Biochem. 269, 4159 (2002).
89.Wynne, A., Textiles, The Motivate Series (Macmillan Education, Oxford, UK, 1997).
90.Huang, W., Begum, R., Barber, T., Ibba, V., Tee, N.C., Hussain, M., Arastoo, M., Yang, Q., Robson, L.G., Lesage, S., Gheysens, T., Skaer, N.J., Knight, D.P., Priestley, J.V., Biomaterials, 33 (1), 59 (2012).
91.Chaudhury, S., Holland, C., Thompson, M., Vollrath, F., Carr, A., JBJS, 21 (9), 1168 (2011).


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The science of silks

  • F. Vollrath (a1), D. Porter (a2) and C. Holland (a3)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.