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Keywords:

  • Bombyx mori silk;
  • crosslinking;
  • modification;
  • structure–property relation

Abstract

In this article, we propose a new modification method for obtaining porous silk fibers with excellent wet elastic resilience and flexibility. Bombyx mori silks were modified by calcium-salt treatment and subsequent epoxy crosslinking with glycerin triglycidyl ether. The effects of temperature, time, and catalyst (sodium carbonate) on the crosslinking reaction of the silk fibers were investigated, and the best conditions of reaction were determined as a temperature of 120°C, a crosslinking agent concentration of 7%, and immersion for 1 h with 2% Na2CO3 solution before the crosslinking reaction. The change in the structure and the physical properties of the silk fibers after calcium-salt treatment and epoxy crosslinking was studied. Separating behavior of the microfibers occurred on the surface of the silk fiber after calcium-salt treatment, and a porous structure formed in the interior of the silk. This porous structure of the silk was enlarged by subsequent epoxy crosslinking, and accordingly, the moisture conduction of the silk fibers improved remarkably. The breaking strength, breaking elongation, and wet elastic resilience of the silk fibers increased evidently after modification, and the modified silks exhibited a better flexibility. The conformation of silk fibroin fibers changed from β sheet to random coil after calcium-salt treatment, whereas the β-sheet content in the silk fibers increased after subsequent epoxy crosslinking. The significant reductions in the crystallinity and crystalline sizes in the silk fibers after the crosslinking reaction indicated that the crosslinking reaction occurred within the crystalline region because the calcium-salt treatment increased the reaction accessibility. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2010