DSGN119 - Design as a Generic
Professor M Neil James -
Web page http://www.plym.tech.ac.uk/si
Case Studies of
Structural Design in Nature
Nature has had
millions of years to achieve structural design that is exactly right for
its purposes and can serve as a source of inspiration to designers and
engineers. A few simple examples are shown on this page. The
hyperlinks go to research and review papers dealing with the various
Spider silk is stronger than steel
(for instance, Black Widow silk has a breaking strength of 1.1 GPa ± 0.5
GPa - see reference 1 below. Silk-based biomaterials have
many uses (see reference 2), including historical use of silkworm silk in sutures, while
exploitation of spider silk
attracts considerable research attention (see reference 3). The strength and structure
of spider silk is optimised for different tasks - see the image below from
the review article by Vollratha (reference 4).
A spider web is optimised to provide
food and the largest webs can catch birds in flight. There is
significant interest in making
synthetic silks (see reference 5).
International Journal of Biological Macromolecules Vol. 24 (1999) pages
277–282. "Material properties of cobweb silk from the black widow
spider Latrodectus hesperus" by Anne M.F. Moore and Kimly Tran.
We present the material analysis of scaffolding silk from the cobweb of
the black widow spider Latrodectus hesperus. 30 strands were tested from
the webs of nine spiders. Strands were stretched at 0.211 mm:s as
force and extension were recorded. Cross-sectional area was
measured under 1000 oil-immersion light microscopy. The
stress–strain curve shows that cobweb silk is a distinct material from
other known spider silks. The average breaking point for this cobweb
silk is 1.190.5 GPa at 0.2290.05 strain. All samples increased
stiffness as they were stretched, but to different extents.
Variation in stiffness might be due to differential crystallization or
alignment of the silk proteins during stretching.
Biomaterials Vol. 24 (2003) pages 401–416. "Silk-based
biomaterials" by Gregory H. Altman, Frank Diaz, Caroline Jakuba, Tara
Calabro, Rebecca L. Horan, Jingsong Chen, Helen Lu, John Richmond and
David L. Kaplan.
Silk from the silkworm, Bombyx mori,has been used as biomedical suture
material for centuries. The unique mechanical
properties of these fibers provided important clinical repair options for
many applications. During the past 20 years,some
biocompatibility problems have been reported for silkworm silk; however,
contamination from residual sericin (glue-like proteins) was the likely
cause. More recent studies with well-defined silkworm silk fibers and
films suggest that the core silk fibroin fibers exhibit comparable
biocompatibility in vitro and in vivo with other commonly used
biomaterials such as polylactic acid and collagen. Furthermore, the
unique mechanical properties of the silk fibers, the diversity of side
chain chemistries for ‘decoration’ with growth and adhesion factors, and
the ability to genetically tailor the protein provide additional rationale
for the exploration of this family of fibrous proteins for biomaterial
applications. For example, in designing scaffolds for tissue
engineering these properties are particularly relevant and recent results
with bone and ligament formation in vitro support the potential role for
this biomaterial in future applications. To date, studies with silks
to address biomaterial and matrix scaffold needs have focused on silkworm
silk. With the diversity of silk-like fibrous proteins from spiders
and insects, a range of native or bioengineered variants can be expected
for application to a diverse set of clinical needs.
Exploiting spider's Silk
by Paula Gould, Materials Today, December 2002, pages 42-47.
Reviews in Molecular Biotechnology vol. 74 (2000) pages 67-83. "Review
article: Strength and structure of spiders’ silks" by Fritz Vollratha.
Spider silks are composite materials with often complex
microstructures. They are spun from liquid crystalline dope using a
complicated spinning mechanism which gives the animal considerable
control. The material properties of finished silk are modified by the
effects of water and other solvents, and spiders make use of this to
produce fibres with specific qualities. The surprising sophistication of
spider silks and spinning technologies makes it imperative for us to
understand both material and manufacturing in nature before embarking on
the commercialization of biotechnologically modified silk dope.
Tibtech Vol. 18 (2000) pages 374-379. "Synthetic spider silk: a
modular fiber" by Michael B. Hinman, Justin A. Jones and Randolph V.
Spiders make their webs and perform a wide range of tasks with up to seven
different types of silk fiber. These different fibers allow a comparison
of structure with function, because each silk has distinct mechanical
properties and is composed of peptide modules that confer those
properties. By using genetic engineering to mix the modules in specific
proportions, proteins with defined strength and elasticity can be
designed, which have many potential medical and engineering uses.
The shape of pumpkin is optimised to
allow them to roll on the ground (accounting for wind and movement as they
grow) and their stems in particular, have good torsional flexibility.