Skip to main content


Thursday 07 May 2015Silk: More than just a fibre

Dr Chris Holland - Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield

HAR/170 (3D Visualisation Suite) 14:00-15:30

Materials manufacture and processing results in over 20% of the worlds carbon emissions with Polymers accounting for approximately 5% crude oil use. Yet consumer demand for high-performance materials is forever increasing and apparently in direct contrast to parallel requirements for products that are sustainable and environmentally benign.

Here biology can contribute much to the discussion, as Nature's materials tend to be supremely energy efficient as well as recyclable. Silks are biological polymers that have evolved to be processed by controlled protein denaturation, a process depending on the researchers' background, with similarities to amyloidogenesis for some and flow induced crystallisation for others. We propose silks are a unique source of inspiration for the current challenges facing manufacturing, for unlike all other biological materials they are spun, not grown.

This presentation will provide an overview of Natures 400 million years of R&D (a.k.a natural selection) into silk and our recent studies into the importance of processing in this fascinating material. Finally I will discuss silk's potential in medicine and how fundamental research is being translated into the development of a range of high tech materials, from holograms to engineering composites and implantable biomedical devices.

Short Bio

Chris Holland is a biologist by training and working in the field of natural materials ( He currently holds an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship and Lectureship in the department of Materials Science and Engineering at Sheffield having previously studied and worked in the Department of Zoology and Oxford Silk Group, Oxford.

Outside of the lab he is an Associate Editor for ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, chairperson of the Recent Appointees in Polymer Science on the committee of the Natural Materials Association and sits on the scientific advisory board of Oxford Biomaterials which commercialises high-tech silk-based devices for a range of medical and non-medical applications.

Add to calendar

Add to calendar (.ics)