Dynamic behaviour of silks: Nature’s precision nanocomposites
1 Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PJ, UK
2 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
Silk is often cited as a material worth imitating, due to its high strength and toughness. In order to produce a synthetic analogue, or enhanced natural version, the microstructural basis of these properties must be understood. Current understanding is that silk deforms through the detachment of nano-scale crystallites, in the manner of a damaged composite. This picture forms the basis for constitutive models, but validation data is limited to low strain-rates. Here we present a programme of research in which high-rate behaviour is studied through ballistic impact experiments. These have been applied to the silk of the Bombyx mori moth, as harvested from cocoons, and to the major ampullate thread of the golden orb weaver spider Nephila edulis. Longitudinal wave-speeds, and air drag coefficients, have been calculated for selected cases. Differences between the response of various silks and a similar synthetic fibre, nylon, are discussed, and future plans are presented.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012