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Title: Investigations on natural silks using dynamic mechanical thermal analysis (DMTA)
Author: Guan, Juan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 4150
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the dynamic mechanical properties of natural silk fibres, mainly from silkworm species Bombyx mori (B. mori) and spider species Nephila edulis, using dynamic mechanical thermal analysis, DMTA. The aim is not only to provide novel data on mechanical properties of silk, but also to relate these properties to the structure and morphology of silk. A systematic approach is adopted to evaluate the effect of the three principal factors of stress, temperature and hydration on the properties and structure of silk. The methods developed in this work are then used to examine commercially important aspects of the ‘quality’ of silk. I show that the dynamic storage modulus of silks increases with loading stress in the deformation through yield to failure, whereas the conventional engineering tensile modulus decreases significantly post-yield. Analyses of the effects of temperature and thermal history show a number of important effects: (1) the loss peak at -60 °C is found to be associated the protein-water glass transition; (2) the increase in the dynamic storage modulus of native silks between temperature +25 and 100 °C is due simply to water loss; (3) a number of discrete loss peaks from +150 to +220°C are observed and attributed to the glass transition of different states of disordered structure with different intermolecular hydrogen bonding. Excess environmental humidity results in a lower effective glass transition temperature (Tg) for disordered silk fractions. Also, humidity-dynamic mechanical analysis on Nephila edulis spider dragline silks has shown that the glass transition induces a partial supercontraction, called Tg contraction. This new finding leads to the conclusion of two independent mechanisms for supercontraction in spider dragline silks. Study of three commercial B. mori cocoon silk grades and a variety of processed silks or artificial silks shows that lower grade and poorly processed silks display lower Tg values, and often have a greater loss tangent at Tg due to increased disorder. This suggests that processing contributes significantly to the differences in the structural order among natural or unnatural silks. More importantly, dynamic mechanical thermal analysis is proposed to be a potential tool for quality evaluation and control in silk production and processing. In summary, I demonstrate that DMTA is a valuable analytical tool for understanding the structure and properties of silk, and use a systematic approach to understand quantitatively the important mechanical properties of silk in terms of a generic structural framework in silk proteins.
Supervisor: Vollrath, Fritz; Porter, David Sponsor: Chinese Ministry of Education ; University of Oxford Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nanostructures ; Materials modelling ; Materials engineering ; Fatigue ; Atomic scale structure and properties ; Advanced materials ; Polymers Amino acid and peptide chemistry ; biopolymer ; fiber ; mechanical properties ; protein structure ; structural modeling ; dynamic mechanical thermal analysis