Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)


Applied Science


Hannes Schniepp

Committee Members

Diane Shakes

Liz Allison


Spider silk is an ideal material in material engineering and biomedical areas. Its remarkable strength and toughness outperform most artificial materials on earth, not to mention its biocompatibility, biodegradability, and light weight. Despite extensive research, comprehensive experimental evidence of the formation and morphology of the internal structure of spider silk is still limited and controversially discussed. Here, we report ≈10 nm diameter nanofibrils as the basic structural element of the dragline silk of the golden orb-weaver Trichonephila clavipes. We were able to produce this kind of nanofibrils by using two complementary routes. For the first time, we could completely decompose natural spider silk fibers into such nanofibrils via a mechanical method and observe that the core of the fiber is entirely composed of such parallel nanofibrils. Furthermore, we perceived that silk protein has an intrinsic mechanism to form nanofibrils with a certain morphology by shear-induced self-assembly, which could be easily triggered in-vitro. Finally, we studied the effects of pH, ions, and protein concentration on self-assembly. We found that each of these parameters plays a critical role in the process. We believe this knowledge will help us understand the fundamentals of this exceptional material, leading us to realize silk-based high-performance materials.

Available for download on Saturday, May 11, 2024

On-Campus Access Only