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Session 6, Abstract 36

THE CHARACTERIZATION OF EMBIOPTERA SILK AS A BIOMATERIAL

Evangelea DiCicco* (Rich Barber and Janice Edgerly-Rooks), Dept. of Physics and Dept. of Biology, Santa Clara University Embioptera (webspinners) are insects that produce silk in glands housed in their forelegs (basitarsomeres).

Embioptera use this silk for shelter and protection. Their silk is the finest of all known animal silks, with fibers on the order of 0.05-0.1 mm in diameter. In comparison, spider and silkworm silks have diameters of roughly 1-4 mm and 5-10 mm respectively. The remarkably small size of embioptera silk makes it a potentially valuable biomaterial, especially for the use in nanotechnology. Through the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM), we quantified the silk diameters of multiple species of embioptera and discovered unique silk structures that these insects produce. We are currently in the process of developing methods for analyzing and handling the silk, in order to study the silk’s mechanical and electrical properties.