Structuring of Functional Spider Silk Wires, Coatings, and Sheets by Self-Assembly on Superhydrophobic Pillar Surfaces

Adv Mater. 2018 Jan;30(3). doi: 10.1002/adma.201704325. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Spider silk has recently become a material of high interest for a large number of biomedical applications. Previous work on structuring of silk has resulted in particles (0D), fibers (1D), films (2D), and foams, gels, capsules, or microspheres (3D). However, the manufacturing process of these structures is complex and involves posttreatment of chemicals unsuitable for biological applications. In this work, the self-assembly of recombinant spider silk on micropatterned superhydrophobic surfaces is studied. For the first time, structuring of recombinant spider silk is achieved using superhydrophobic surfaces under conditions that retain the bioactivity of the functionalized silk. By tuning the superhydrophobic surface geometry and the silk solution handling parameters, this approach allows controlled generation of silk coatings, nanowires, and sheets. The underlying mechanisms and governing parameters are discussed. It is believed that the results of this work pave the way for fabrication of silk formations for applications including vehicles for drug delivery, optical sensing, antimicrobial coatings, and cell culture scaffolds.

Keywords: coating; nanowires; self-assembly; spider silk; superhydrophobic.