Silk proteins called fibroins have potential uses in a variety of devices thanks to their favourable optical and mechanical properties. Now Fiorenzo Omenetto at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and his colleagues have stamped patterns into these proteins using a rapid nanometre-scale imprinting process.
Silk fibroin usually takes many hours to cast into patterns, but the nanoimprinting technique, which presses the material into a mould at low pressure and room temperature, takes just seconds to minutes.
Tests of a patterned film of the silk protein in an optofluidic sensing device showed that the protein's stability enabled repeated use of the device, even after several months of storage.
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Material science: Speedy silk imprinting. Nature 463, 404 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/463404b