Finnish researchers create composite from spider silk and cellulose

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In Finland, researchers have created a strong composite bioplastic from wood cellulose fibers and silk proteins similar to those found in spiders’ webs.

Scientists from Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland collaborated to use synthetic DNA and bacteria to produce a material like spider silk, which they then combined with wood cellulose.

Potential applications include medicine, such as artificial muscles, as well as textiles and packaging.

“We used birch tree pulp, broke it down to cellulose nanofibrils and aligned them into a stiff scaffold,” VTT research scientist Pezhman Mohammadi tells The Engineer. “At the same time, we infiltrated the cellulosic network with a soft and energy dissipating spider silk adhesive matrix. Our work illustrates the new and versatile possibilities of protein engineering. In future, we could manufacture similar composites with slightly different building blocks and achieve a different set of characteristics for other applications.”