Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

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

Transparent Conductive Films and Sensors Are Hot Segments in Printed Electronics: Start-ups in these fields show above-average momentum, while companies working on emissive displays such as OLED are fading, Lux Research says April 17th, 2014

Harris & Harris Group Continues Its Blog Series to Highlight Most Impactful Portfolio Companies With Champions Oncology, Inc. April 17th, 2014

'Life Redesigned: The Emergence of Synthetic Biology' Lecture at Brookhaven Lab on Wednesday, April 30: Biomedical Engineer James Collins to Speak for BSA Distinguished Lecture Series April 16th, 2014

ECHA Planning Workshop on Regulatory Challenges in the Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials April 16th, 2014

Videos/Movies

Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

Director Wally Pfister joins UC Berkeley neuroengineers to discuss the science behind ‘Transcendence’ April 7th, 2014

KEEP CALM and PUBLISH PAPERS – a new video blog with graphic tutorials to scientific publishing April 7th, 2014

Discoveries

Scientists Capture Ultrafast Snapshots of Light-Driven Superconductivity: X-rays reveal how rapidly vanishing 'charge stripes' may be behind laser-induced high-temperature superconductivity April 16th, 2014

Scientists observe quantum superconductor-metal transition and superconducting glass: A team including MIPT physicist observed quantum superconductor-metal transition and superconducting glass April 16th, 2014

UT Arlington physicist creates new nanoparticle for cancer therapy April 16th, 2014

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Materials/Metamaterials

Engineers develop new materials for hydrogen storage April 15th, 2014

Industrial Nanotech, Inc. Lands First Major Order from Pemex, Mexico’s State-Owned Oil and Gas Company April 14th, 2014

Properties of Coatings Used in Electrical Insulators Modified by Iranian Researchers April 14th, 2014

Graphene Supermarket to offer HDPlas™ by Haydale, a High-Performance Graphene Material April 10th, 2014

Announcements

Transparent Conductive Films and Sensors Are Hot Segments in Printed Electronics: Start-ups in these fields show above-average momentum, while companies working on emissive displays such as OLED are fading, Lux Research says April 17th, 2014

Harris & Harris Group Continues Its Blog Series to Highlight Most Impactful Portfolio Companies With Champions Oncology, Inc. April 17th, 2014

Aerotech X-Y ball-screw stage for economical high performance Planar positioning April 16th, 2014

Energy Research Facility Construction Project at Brookhaven Lab Wins U.S. Energy Secretary's Achievement Award April 16th, 2014

Human Interest/Art

Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks: A real possibility next Christmas? Forget socks and shaving foam, the big kids of tomorrow want an invisible cloak for Christmas December 19th, 2013

Chicago Awareness Organization First Not-for-Profit to Sponsor Dog Training to Detect Ovarian Cancer Odorants December 12th, 2013

ZEISS Microscopes used to create images for Art Exhibit at Midway Airport: Art of Science: Images from the Institute for Genomic Biology October 25th, 2013

New potential for touch screens found at your fingertips September 17th, 2013

Nanobiotechnology

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

In latest generation of tiny biosensors, size isn't everything: UCLA researchers overturn conventional wisdom on nanowire-based diagnostic devices April 11th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

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 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE