SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 62, Issue 6: 919-930(2019) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-018-9508-3

Progress in modification of silk fibroin fiber

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  • ReceivedNov 14, 2018
  • AcceptedApr 9, 2019
  • PublishedMay 15, 2019


Silk fibroin fiber is a natural protein fiber. It is moisturizing, breathable, soft and skin-friendly. However, unmodified silk fibroin fiber is easy to be oxidized and faded. In this paper, the recent progress in modification of silk fibroin fiber is introduced, including the composite modification, feeding modification, genetic engineering modification, spinning technology and regulating the physiological environment modification. Simultaneously, the future development trend for the modification of silk fibroin fiber is also prospected.

Funded by

the National High-tech R&D Program(863,Program)

and Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information.


This work was supported by the National High-tech R&D Program (863 Program) (Grant No. 2015AA033905), and Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Information.


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  • Figure 1

    Structure of silk fibroin fiber [4].

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) The silk fibroin fiber is modified with nano silver and triiron tetroxide by continuous assembly [12].

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) Modification of silk fibroin fiber with graphene & silver nanoparticle [10].

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) Aramid fiber modified silk fibroin fiber [31].

  • Figure 5

    (Color online) (a) 5th instar Bombyx mori larvae feeding on mulberry leaves sprayed with direct acid fast red dye solution; (b) dissected silkworm glands; (c) colored cocoon shells after the larvae have been taken out [37].

  • Figure 6

    Electron microscopy of modified silk fibroin fiber with different Hap contents [64].

  • Table 1   The summary of composite modification of silk fibroin fiber with different substance




    Advantages and disadvantages

    Metal nanoparticle

    Au, Ag

    In situ synthesis

    Antibacterial [512]

    Excellent antimicrobial effect, but utilization of precious metals leads to high costs

    Metal compoundsnanoparticles

    AgCl, Cu2O,CeO2, ZnO

    In situ generation, dip-coating

    Antibacterial [1316]

    Diversification of functions by using different substances, but there is no formation of covalent bond on the surface of composite fibers so that stability of composite fiber’s function might be poor

    HBP-TiO2, TiO2

    Impregnation, ALD

    Ultraviolet resistance and mechanical improvement [17,18]



    Increased color strength [19]



    Magnetic [20]

    CdTe, UCNP

    Assembly technology

    Fluorescent [21,22]

    Carbon nanomaterial


    Coating process

    Conductive [2325]

    Nanomaterials tend to self-accumulate

    Organic small molecule

    AAc, VPA,VSA


    Improved cell adhesion [26]

    The formation of covalent bonds improves the stability of composite fibers, but organic molecules are required to have groups that are able to react with silk fibroin molecules some of process are complex, and potential toxicity of some small organic molecules should be considered


    Dyeing process

    Antibacterial [27]


    RAFT-mediated polymerization

    Surface free energy reduction [28]

    Sodium alginate

    Thermally-induced phase-separation

    Biocompatible [29]

    TPF, Styrene-anthracene derivative

    Molecular recognition and interaction

    Fluorescence [30,31]

    Organic macromolecule

    Oxidized cotton

    Graft reaction

    Enhanced properties of mechanicsand water absorption [32]

    Aramid fiber

    Hydrothermal treatments

    Improved mechanic properties [33]

    Bovine lactoferrin

    Graft reaction

    Antibacterial [34]


    In situ polymerization

    Conductive [35]



    Ions adsorption [36]



    Highly elastic [37]

    PAH, PAA


    Biocompatible [38]

  • Table 2   The summary of modification by feeding silkworm with different substance

    Feeding substance


    Advantages and disadvantages


    Brilliant yellow, Congo red, acid orange G, acid orange II, mordant black 17, direct acid fast red and Sudan III

    Dyed silk [39]

    Green, environmentally friendly. The disadvantage is limitationsof the physiological metabolicactivities of silkworms

    Rhodamine B

    Obtained luminescent silk fibroin fiber [40]


    SWCNT and graphene

    Improvement of elongation at break and toughness of silk fibroin fiber [41]

    Tio2 nanoparticles

    Improvement of breaking strength and elongation at break [43]

    Fe3O4 nanoparticles

    Magnetic properties, excellent thermal stability and mechanical properties [44]

    Ion precursors of Ca2+ and PO43–

    Superior mechanical properties [45]

    Nanoparticles (Cu, Fe, and tio2)

    Improvement of the tensile strength of silk fibroin fiber [46]

    Natural polymer


    Increased the tensile strength [47]

    Royal jelly

    Increased weight of larvae, cocoons and pupae [48]

    Amino acid

    Threonine or proline

    Improvement of mechanical strength [49], Reactive sites were obtained [50,51]

  • Table 3   The summary of modification with spinning technology

    Additive substances


    Advantages and disadvantages


    Ag, Se

    Antibacterial [63,64]

    Nanofibers could be prepared, and it hasuniform distribution, high aspect ratioand high controllability, but the outputof electrospinning may be a problem

    Laminin, collagen, poly(L-lactide)and gelatin, hydroxyapatite,



    L-polylactic acid, single-walledcarbon nanotube

    Excellent mechanical properties[6970]

    Wet spinning or dryspinning

    CaCl2-formic acid

    High strength and ductility [71]

    It is simple and effective to prepare fiberwhich of diameter larger than that preparedby electro-spinning, but the use of toxic and harmful solvents may unfriendly to theenvironment

    Graphene oxide or CTN

    Excellent mechanical properties [72,73]

    B. striata polysaccharide

    Biocompatible and degradableimproved [74]

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