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The impact of degumming conditions on the properties of silk films for biomedical applications
journal contributionposted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ben AllardyceBen Allardyce, Rangam RajkhowaRangam Rajkhowa, R J Dilley, M D Atlas, Jasjeet Kaur, Xungai WangXungai Wang
The degumming process to remove sericin decreases silk fiber strength; however, the impact of degumming on the mechanical properties of regenerated silk biomaterials has not been established. This study investigated the effect of degumming temperature, time, alkaline component and alkaline concentration on the mechanical properties of silk fibroin films. Sericin removal was estimated using weight loss; 10 samples with 12.2–29.4% weight loss were then further characterized in terms of fiber mechanical properties, fiber surface morphology, molecular weight distribution and film tensile strength. A negative correlation was found between weight loss and fiber tensile strength. This loss of fiber strength under harsher degumming conditions had a direct impact on the tensile strength of regenerated films. Mild degumming conditions (weight loss of 12.2%) led to higher film strength (8.9 MPa), whereas aggressive degumming conditions (with 29.4% weight loss) resulted in significantly weaker films (4.3 MPa). The presence of some residual sericin, after mild degumming, is likely to affect the mechanical properties of the regenerated silk films. These results will assist in the development of materials with mechanical and biocompatibility properties tuned to specific biomedical applications.