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Silk - the physics behind the function

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ismael Moreno-Gomez.

Presentation at 6:30 pm, light refreshments from 6:00 pm. These talks are open to anyone with an interest in the topic.

Silks are natural, protein-based fibres, produced by many arthropods. The webs produced by spiders are well-known, exhibiting remarkable – even legendary – mechanical properties; fibre from cocoons of the domesticated silkworm (Bombyx mori) forms the basis of the silk textile industry. Nevertheless, similar fibres are also produced by many other insects and myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes).

Although the composition, production and function of the fibres may differ significantly between the various animals, there is a key characteristic that distinguishes silks from other fibres. In all cases, aqueous protein precursors are prepared in special glands within the body, then rapidly converted to filaments by extrusion ‘on demand’, under ambient conditions, for use outside the body. By comparison, the various types of hairs are grown continuously, but relatively slowly.

This talk will describe the diverse properties and uses of silks in the natural world and explore the science underlying the remarkable behaviour. The talk will finish with a summary of the work we are doing in Sheffield to understand this family of remarkable materials.

This talk is part of the Cambridge and Anglian Materials Society meetings series.

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