Basic Principles in the Design of Spider Silk Fibers
José Pérez-Rigueiro, Manuel Elices, Gustavo R. Plaza and Gustavo V. Guinea.
Abstract: The prominence of spider silk as a hallmark in biomimetics relies not only on its unrivalled
mechanical properties, but also on how these properties are the result of a set of original design
principles. In this sense, the study of spider silk summarizes most of the main topics relevant to
the field and, consequently, offers a nice example on how these topics could be considered in other
biomimetic systems. This review is intended to present a selection of some of the essential design
principles that underlie the singular microstructure of major ampullate gland silk, as well as to show
how the interplay between them leads to the outstanding tensile behavior of spider silk. Following
this rationale, the mechanical behavior of the material is analyzed in detail and connected with its
main microstructural features, specifically with those derived from the semicrystalline organization of
the fibers. Establishing the relationship between mechanical properties and microstructure in spider
silk not only offers a vivid image of the paths explored by nature in the search for high performance
materials, but is also a valuable guide for the development of new artificial fibers inspired in their
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