Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Inspired by insect cuticle, scientists develop material that's tough and strong

Date:
December 15, 2011
Source:
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Summary:
Researchers have developed "Shrilk," a new material that replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature's more extraordinary substances -- insect cuticle.

Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. Shown here is a replica of an insect wing, which was made with the new material.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a new material that replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature's more extraordinary substances -- insect cuticle. Also low-cost, biodegradable, and biocompatible, the new material, called "Shrilk," could one day replace plastics in consumer products and be used safely in a variety of medical applications.

The research findings appear December 13 in the online issue of Advanced Materials. The work was conducted by Wyss Institute postdoctoral fellow, Javier G. Fernandez, Ph.D., with Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. Ingber is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston and is a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Natural insect cuticle, such as that found in the rigid exoskeleton of a housefly or grasshopper, is uniquely suited to the challenge of providing protection without adding weight or bulk. As such, it can deflect external chemical and physical strains without damaging the insect's internal components, while providing structure for the insect's muscles and wings. It is so light that it doesn't inhibit flight and so thin that it allows flexibility. Also remarkable is its ability to vary its properties, from rigid along the insect's body segments and wings to elastic along its limb joints.

Insect cuticle is a composite material consisting of layers of chitin, a polysaccharide polymer, and protein organized in a laminar, plywood-like structure. Mechanical and chemical interactions between these materials provide the cuticle with its unique mechanical and chemical properties. By studying these complex interactions and recreating this unique chemistry and laminar design in the lab, Fernandez and Ingber were able to engineer a thin, clear film that has the same composition and structure as insect cuticle. The material is called Shrilk because it is composed of fibroin protein from silk and from chitin, which is commonly extracted from discarded shrimp shells.

Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. It is biodegradable and can be produced at a very lost cost, since chitin is readily available as a shrimp waste product. It is also easily molded into complex shapes, such as tubes. By controlling the water content in the fabrication process, the researchers were even able to reproduce the wide variations in stiffness, from elasticity to rigidity.

These attributes could have multiple applications. As a cheap, environmentally safe alternative to plastic, Shrilk could be used to make trash bags, packaging, and diapers that degrade quickly. As an exceptionally strong, biocompatible material, it could be used to suture wounds that bear high loads, such as in hernia repair, or as a scaffold for tissue regeneration.

"When we talk about the Wyss Institute's mission to create bioinspired materials and products, Shrilk is an example of what we have in mind," said Ingber. "It has the potential to be both a solution to some of today's most critical environmental problems and a stepping stone toward significant medical advances."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Javier G. Fernandez, Donald E. Ingber. Unexpected Strength and Toughness in Chitosan-Fibroin Laminates Inspired by Insect Cuticle. Advanced Materials, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/adma.201104051

Cite This Page:

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. "Inspired by insect cuticle, scientists develop material that's tough and strong." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111213122629.htm>.
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. (2011, December 15). Inspired by insect cuticle, scientists develop material that's tough and strong. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111213122629.htm
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. "Inspired by insect cuticle, scientists develop material that's tough and strong." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111213122629.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Halliburton Reaches $1B Gulf Spill Settlement

Halliburton Reaches $1B Gulf Spill Settlement

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) Halliburton's agreement to pay more than $1 billion to settle numerous claims involving the 2010 BP oil spill could be a way to diminish years of costly litigation. A federal judge still has to approve the settlement. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Teases India Event, Possible Android One Reveal

Google Teases India Event, Possible Android One Reveal

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) Google has announced a Sept. 15 event in India during which they're expected to reveal their Android One phones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins