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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hagfish slime : fine-tuning the mechanical properties of a new high performance fiber Levy, Nimrod


The race to find new high performance materials is at an exciting stage. Science is in the midst of attempting to investigate any and all materials that are present in the world with the hope of finding superior, cheaper, environmentally friendly materials. Nature, it seems has been unknowingly at the race for quite some time, and is leading it in some areas. Intermediate filament-based materials promise good mechanical characteristics with the added benefit of self-assembly. Although much is known about the mechanical properties of other intermediate filament-rich materials such as wool, those materials are not purely composed of intermediate filaments and usually have added complexities in terms of synthetic manufacturing. This thesis focuses on manipulating and understanding the relationship between structure and function of essentially pure intermediate filament-based hagfish slime fibers. Previously described a-helix <-> P-sheet transition in the coiled-coil domains of hagfish fibers' intermediate filaments subunits was quantified using a novel in vitro light microscopy technique. This allowed for optimization of draw processing techniques that lead to improved tensile mechanical properties. Improvement was achieved via formation of a P-sheet crystal network in the draw processed fibers. Dimensional stability was achieved via physical and chemical processing and resulted in a new candidate environmentally friendly, high-performance fiber.

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