Structural investigation of silk fibroin-based membranes
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Silk fibroin has created a surge of interest for use as organic material due to its optical transparency, biocompatibility, biodegradability, and excellent physical properties. However, the implementation of silk films and structures into biomedical and sensing devices has been relatively low due to a lack of understanding of the mechanisms involved in such implementation. Increasing need for multifunctional high-performance organic materials has caused an emphasis on the ability of researchers to spatiotemporally pattern and control the structure and consequently functional properties of materials. Silk fibroin displays high potential for use as a controllable biomaterial that can be formed into a myriad of different structures for various applications. By implementation of an aqueous silk solution approach combining various fabrication techniques, several different pristine-silk and silk-composite membranes have been developed to investigate the importance of internal structuring. Different methods of investigation include: 1) incorporation of reinforcing nanoparticles within the silk matrix; 2) neutron reflectivity measurements of ultrathin silk films; 3) film patterning with nanoscale features followed by boundary organized surface mineralization of inorganic nanoparticles. The ultimate goal will be to provide fundamental data assisting in an increased knowledge of silk fibroin-based membranes and the effect of secondary structures on properties of interest.