3D Printing of Hierarchical Silk Fibroin Structures
Sommer, M.R.; Schaffner, M.; Carnelli, D.; Studart, A.é R.
Acs Applied Materials and Interfaces 8(50): 34677-34685
ISSN/ISBN: 1944-8252 PMID: 27933765 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b11440
Like many other natural materials, silk is hierarchically structured from the amino acid level up to the cocoon or spider web macroscopic structures. Despite being used industrially in a number of applications, hierarchically structured silk fibroin objects with a similar degree of architectural control as in natural structures have not been produced yet due to limitations in fabrication processes. In a combined top-down and bottom-up approach, we exploit the freedom in macroscopic design offered by 3D printing and the template-guided assembly of ink building blocks at the meso- and nanolevel to fabricate hierarchical silk porous materials with unprecedented structural control. Pores with tunable sizes in the range 40-350 μm are generated by adding sacrificial organic microparticles as templates to a silk fibroin-based ink. Commercially available wax particles or monodisperse polycaprolactone made by microfluidics can be used as microparticle templates. Since closed pores are generated after template removal, an ultrasonication treatment can optionally be used to achieve open porosity. Such pore templating particles can be further modified with nanoparticles to create a hierarchical template that results in porous structures with a defined nanotopography on the pore walls. The hierarchically porous silk structures obtained with this processing technique can potentially be utilized in various application fields from structural materials to thermal insulation to tissue engineering scaffolds.