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The ACS Applied Nano Materials cover illustrates a new approach for creating helix-rich RSF films based on molecular interactions between the protein molecules and carboxyl-functionalized surfaces of a small quantity of added carbon nanotubes (CNTs). (Credit: Randall McKenzie/McKenzie Illustrations).
The ACS Applied Nano Materials cover illustrates a new approach for creating helix-rich RSF films based on molecular interactions between the protein molecules and carboxyl-functionalized surfaces of a small quantity of added carbon nanotubes (CNTs). (Credit: Randall McKenzie/McKenzie Illustrations).

According to new research, silk combined with carbon nanotubes may lead to a new generation of biomedical devices and so-called transient, biodegradable electronics.

Regenerated silk fibroins (RSFs) typically are chemically unstable in water and suffer from inferior mechanical properties, owing to the difficulty in precisely controlling the molecular structure of the fibroin proteins in RSF films. The group, which also work extensively on carbon nanotubes (CNTs), thought that perhaps the molecular interactions between nanotubes and fibroins could enable “tuning” the structure of RSF proteins.

The microwave irradiation, coupled with a solvent vapor treatment, provided a unique control mechanism for the protein structure and resulted in a flexible and transparent film comparable to synthetic polymers but one that could be both more sustainable and degradable. These RSF-CNT films have potential for use in flexible electronics, biomedical devices, and transient electronics such as sensors that would be used for a desired period inside the body ranging from hours to weeks, and then naturally dissolve.

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