Hierarchical Structure of Silk Materials Versus Mechanical Performance and Mesoscopic Engineering Principles

Wu Qiu, Aniruddha Patil, Fan Hu, Xiang Yang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A comprehensive review on the five levels of hierarchical structures of silk materials and the correlation with macroscopic properties/performance of the silk materials, that is, the toughness, strain-stiffening, etc., is presented. It follows that the crystalline binding force turns out to be very important in the stabilization of silk materials, while the β-crystallite networks or nanofibrils and the interactions among helical nanofibrils are two of the most essential structural elements, which to a large extent determine the macroscopic performance of various forms of silk materials. In this context, the characteristic structural factors such as the orientation, size, and density of β-crystallites are very crucial. It is revealed that the formation of these structural elements is mainly controlled by the intermolecular nucleation of β-crystallites. Consequently, the rational design and reconstruction of silk materials can be implemented by controlling the molecular nucleation via applying sheering force and seeding (i.e., with carbon nanotubes). In general, the knowledge of the correlation between hierarchical structures and performance provides an understanding of the structural reasons behind the fascinating behaviors of silk materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1903948
Number of pages45
Issue number51
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • hierarchical structure
  • mechanical performance
  • mesoscopic engineering
  • nucleation model
  • silk fibroin materials

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