Nanotechnology Now







Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > The music of the silks: Researchers synthesize a new kind of silk fiber — and find that music can help fine-tune the material’s properties

This diagram of the molecular structure of one of the artificially produced versions of spider silk depicts one that turned out to form strong, well-linked fibers. A different structure, made using a variation of the same methods, was not able to form into the long fibers needed to make it useful. Musical compositions based on the two structures helped to show how they differed.
Image: Markus Buehler
This diagram of the molecular structure of one of the artificially produced versions of spider silk depicts one that turned out to form strong, well-linked fibers. A different structure, made using a variation of the same methods, was not able to form into the long fibers needed to make it useful. Musical compositions based on the two structures helped to show how they differed.

Image: Markus Buehler

Abstract:
Pound for pound, spider silk is one of the strongest materials known: Research by MIT's Markus Buehler has helped explain that this strength arises from silk's unusual hierarchical arrangement of protein building blocks.

The music of the silks: Researchers synthesize a new kind of silk fiber — and find that music can help fine-tune the material’s properties

Cambridge, MA | Posted on November 28th, 2012

Now Buehler — together with David Kaplan of Tufts University and Joyce Wong of Boston University — has synthesized new variants on silk's natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material.

And an ear for music, it turns out, might be a key to making those structural improvements.

The work stems from a collaboration of civil and environmental engineers, mathematicians, biomedical engineers and musical composers. The results are reported in a paper published in the journal Nano Today.

"We're trying to approach making materials in a different way," Buehler explains, "starting from the building blocks" — in this case, the protein molecules that form the structure of silk. "It's very hard to do this; proteins are very complex."

Other groups have tried to construct such protein-based fibers using a trial-and-error approach, Buehler says. But this team has approached the problem systematically, starting with computer modeling of the underlying structures that give the natural silk its unusual combination of strength, flexibility and stretchiness.

Buehler's previous research has determined that fibers with a particular structure — highly ordered, layered protein structures alternating with densely packed, tangled clumps of proteins (ABABAB) — help to give silk its exceptional properties. For this initial attempt at synthesizing a new material, the team chose to look instead at patterns in which one of the structures occurred in triplets (AAAB and BBBA).

Making such structures is no simple task. Kaplan, a chemical and biomedical engineer, modified silk-producing genes to produce these new sequences of proteins. Then Wong, a bioengineer and materials scientist, created a microfluidic device that mimicked the spider's silk-spinning organ, which is called a spinneret.

Even after the detailed computer modeling that went into it, the outcome came as a bit of a surprise, Buehler says. One of the new materials produced very strong protein molecules — but these did not stick together as a thread. The other produced weaker protein molecules that adhered well and formed a good thread. "This taught us that it's not sufficient to consider the properties of the protein molecules alone," he says. "Rather, [one must] think about how they can combine to form a well-connected network at a larger scale."

The team is now producing several more variants of the material to further improve and test its properties. But one wrinkle in their process may provide a significant advantage in figuring out which materials will be useful and which ones won't — and perhaps even which might be more advantageous for specific uses. That new and highly unusual wrinkle is music.

The different levels of silk's structure, Buehler says, are analogous to the hierarchical elements that make up a musical composition — including pitch, range, dynamics and tempo. The team enlisted the help of composer John McDonald, a professor of music at Tufts, and MIT postdoc David Spivak, a mathematician who specializes in a field called category theory. Together, using analytical tools derived from category theory to describe the protein structures, the team figured out how to translate the details of the artificial silk's structure into musical compositions.

The differences were quite distinct: The strong but useless material translated into music that was aggressive and harsh, Buehler says, while the one that formed usable fibers sounds much softer and more fluid.

Buehler hopes this can be taken a step further, using the musical compositions to predict how well new variations of the material might perform. "We're looking for radically new ways of designing materials," he says.

Combining materials modeling with mathematical and musical tools, Buehler says, could provide a much faster way of designing new biosynthesized materials, replacing the trial-and-error approach that prevails today. Genetically engineering organisms to produce materials is a long, painstaking process, he says, but this work "has taught us a new approach, a fundamental lesson" in combining experiment, theory and simulation to speed up the discovery process.

Materials produced this way — which can be done under environmentally benign, room-temperature conditions — could lead to new building blocks for tissue engineering or other uses, Buehler says: scaffolds for replacement organs, skin, blood vessels, or even new materials for use in civil engineering.

It may be that the complex structures of music can reveal the underlying complex structures of biomaterials found in nature, Buehler says. "There might be an underlying structural expression in music that tells us more about the proteins that make up our bodies. After all, our organs — including the brain — are made from these building blocks, and humans' expression of music may inadvertently include more information that we are aware of."

"Nobody has tapped into this," he says, adding that with the breadth of his multidisciplinary team, "We could do this — making better bio-inspired materials by using music, and using music to better understand biology."

Written by David Chandler, MIT News Office

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Sarah McDonnell

617-253-8923

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

International research partnership tricks the light fantastic March 2nd, 2015

UC research partnership explores how to best harness solar power March 2nd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Important step towards quantum computing: Metals at atomic scale March 2nd, 2015

Videos/Movies

Maximum Precision in 3D Printing: New complete solution makes additive manufacturing standard for microfabrication February 26th, 2015

Simulating superconducting materials with ultracold atoms: Rice physicists build superconductor analog, observe antiferromagnetic order February 23rd, 2015

Waterloo invention advances quantum computing research: New device, which will be used in labs around the world to develop quantum technologies, produces fragile entangled photons in a more efficient way February 16th, 2015

Los Alamos Develops New Technique for Growing High-Efficiency Perovskite Solar Cells: Researchers’ crystal-production insights resolve manufacturing difficulty January 29th, 2015

Discoveries

International research partnership tricks the light fantastic March 2nd, 2015

UC research partnership explores how to best harness solar power March 2nd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Important step towards quantum computing: Metals at atomic scale March 2nd, 2015

Materials/Metamaterials

Moving molecule writes letters: Caging of molecules allows investigation of equilibrium thermodynamics February 27th, 2015

Graphene shows potential as novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategy: University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells February 26th, 2015

In quest for better lithium-air batteries, chemists boost carbon's stability: Nanoparticle coatings improve stability, cyclability of '3DOm' carbon February 25th, 2015

Learning by eye: Silicon micro-funnels increase the efficiency of solar cells February 25th, 2015

Announcements

International research partnership tricks the light fantastic March 2nd, 2015

UC research partnership explores how to best harness solar power March 2nd, 2015

Researchers turn unzipped nanotubes into possible alternative for platinum: Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells March 2nd, 2015

Important step towards quantum computing: Metals at atomic scale March 2nd, 2015

Human Interest/Art

2015 Nanonics Image Contest January 29th, 2015

OCSiAl supports NanoART Imagery Contest January 23rd, 2015

EnvisioNano: An image contest hosted by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) January 22nd, 2015

Oxford Instruments Asylum Research Announces AFM Image Contest Winners January 11th, 2015

Nanobiotechnology

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer: With the 'rolling droplet technique,' a DNA-injected water droplet rolls like a ball over a platelet, sticking the DNA to the plate surface February 27th, 2015

Bacteria network for food: Bacteria connect to each other and exchange nutrients February 23rd, 2015

Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step by step: New, block-by-block assembly method could pave way for applications in opto-electronics, drug delivery February 23rd, 2015

Better batteries inspired by lowly snail shells: Biological molecules can latch onto nanoscale components and lock them into position to make high performing Li-ion battery electrodes, according to new research presented at the 59th annual meeting of the Biophysical Society February 12th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2015 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE