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Research Article

Biological composite fibers with extraordinary mechanical strength and toughness mediated by multiple intermolecular interacting networks

Sikang Wan1,2Wenhao Cheng1,2Jingjing Li1Fan Wang1Xiwen Xing3( )Jing Sun4( )Hongjie Zhang1,2,5Kai Liu1,2,5( )
State Key Laboratory of Rare Earth Resource Utilization, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130022, China
University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230026, China
Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Science and Technology, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Ulm University, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, 89081 Ulm, Germany
Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
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Graphical Abstract

A versatile molecular engineering strategy is employed to develop robust biosynthetic protein-saccharide composite fibers by internal multiple networks. In stark contrast to the conventional saccharide-based fibers, the lysine-rich biosynthetic proteins significantly enhance saccharide-protein composite fiber’s overall mechanical properties due to their internal multiple networks, offering potential applications for next-generation renewable high-performance bio-composite fibers.


Numerous strategies involving multiple cross-linking networks have been applied for fabricating robust hydrogels. Inspired by this, the development of mechanically strong and tough biological fibers by the incorporation of intermolecular linking networks is becoming important. Herein, we present a versatile strategy for the fabrication of protein-saccharide composite fibers through protein-initiated double interacting networks. Three types of lysine-rich bioengineered proteins were introduced and the present multiple cross-linking interactions including electrostatic forces and covalent bonds significantly enhanced the mechanical properties of as-obtained composite fibers. In stark contrast to pristine saccharide or other polymer fibers, the as-obtained composite fibers exhibited outstanding mechanical performance, showing a breaking strength of ~768 MPa, Young’s modulus of ~24 GPa, and toughness of ~69 MJ∙m–3, respectively. Thus, this established approach has great potentials to fabricate new generation renewable biological fibers with high performance.

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Nano Research
Pages 9192-9198
Cite this article:
Wan S, Cheng W, Li J, et al. Biological composite fibers with extraordinary mechanical strength and toughness mediated by multiple intermolecular interacting networks. Nano Research, 2022, 15(10): 9192-9198.






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Received: 08 April 2022
Revised: 23 May 2022
Accepted: 28 May 2022
Published: 16 June 2022
© Tsinghua University Press 2022