Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, Vol.48, No.17, 8014-8023, 2009
Some Mechanistic Insights into the Gelation of Regenerated Silk Fibroin Sol
We provide some new insights into the kinetics and mechanism of sol-gel transition as it pertains to regenerated silk fibroin, which is the principle structural protein of silkworm silk fiber. Silk fibroin was dissolved in lithium bromide and dialyzed against deionized water to prepare a regenerated fibroin solution. This solution was found to be unstable at lower pH and transformed into a colloidal gel. The kinetics and mechanism of the sol-gel transition were investigated using rheology and light scattering. We show that gelation proceeds in two steps. In the first step, a weak gel is formed almost immediately upon lowering the pH, while in the second step further gelation proceeds rapidly after a long induction time to form a self-similar structure.