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Biomimetic Composites with Enhanced Toughening Using Silk Inspired Triblock Proteins and Aligned Nanocellulose Reinforcements

revised on 12.07.2019, 06:42 and posted on 12.07.2019, 14:41 by Pezhman Mohammadi, A. Sesilja Aranko, Christopher P. Landowski, Olli Ikkala, Wolfgang Wagermaier, Markus Linder
Silk and cellulose are biopolymers that show a high potential as future sustainable materials.They also have complementary properties, suitable for combination in composite materials where cellulose would form the reinforcing component and silk the tough matrix. Therein, a major challenge concerns balancing structure and properties in the assembly process. We used recombinant proteins with triblock architecture combining structurally modified spider silk with terminal cellulose affinity modules. Flow-alignment of cellulose nanofibrils and triblock protein allowed a continuous fiber production.The protein assembly involved phase separation into concentrated coacervates, with subsequent conformational switching from disordered structures to beta sheets. This gave the matrix a tough adhesiveness, forming a new composite material with high strength and stiffness combined with increased toughness. We show that versatile design possibilities in protein engineering enable new fully biological materials, and emphasize the key role of controlled assembly at multiple length scales for realization.


Academy of Finland Center of Excellence 584 Programme (2014–2019)

Academy of Finland projects 307474, 317395 and 317019


Email Address of Submitting Author


Aalto University



ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors have no competing interests.

Version Notes

version1 submitted