Major Advisors: Randy Lewis, Ron Sims
The majority of research on recombinant spider silk proteins (rSSps) has been achieved by solvating the proteins in harsh organic solutions. These solvents, such as, HFIP or DMC are ideal for laboratory-scale investigations but will never be practical for large-scale production and applications. To overcome this obstacle a biomimetic approach was developed that uses an aqueous solvation method, similar to spiders in nature. This method has been successful at solvating a wide array of rSSps, obtaining high concentration solutions, and even allows for the addition or other compounds in conjunction with the silks. This method has also opened up new opportunities for spider silk materials that were previously not possible. These materials include the traditional fibers and films but now include coatings, adhesives, hydrogels, aerogels, foams, capsules, and sponges. Because of the uniqueness of these materials, preliminary investigations and research are being conducted to characterize these novel materials. If the critical properties and characteristics of these materials can be identified, they can be leveraged and possibly lead to useful applications. Considerable progress has been made in developing new rSSps materials and characterizing them. The next steps are to: design, build, and test these material systems to confirm the current concepts and understanding while also applying them to useful industrial and biomedical practices.