Insoluble and flexible silk films containing glycerol.Biomacromolecules. 2010 Jan 11; 11(1):143-50.B
We directly prepared insoluble silk films by blending with glycerol and avoiding the use of organic solvents. The ability to blend a plasticizer like glycerol with a hydrophobic protein like silk and achieve stable material systems above a critical threshold of glycerol is an important new finding with importance for green chemistry approaches to new and more flexible silk-based biomaterials. The aqueous solubility, biocompatibility, and well-documented use of glycerol as a plasticizer with other biopolymers prompted its inclusion in silk fibroin solutions to assess impact on silk film behavior. Processing was performed in water rather than organic solvents to enhance the potential biocompatibility of these biomaterials. The films exhibited modified morphologies that could be controlled on the basis of the blend composition and also exhibited altered mechanical properties, such as improved elongation at break, when compared with pure silk fibroin films. Mechanistically, glycerol appears to replace water in silk fibroin chain hydration, resulting in the initial stabilization of helical structures in the films, as opposed to random coil or beta-sheet structures. The use of glycerol in combination with silk fibroin in materials processing expands the functional features attainable with this fibrous protein, and in particular, in the formation of more flexible films with potential utility in a range of biomaterial and device applications.