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Mater Sci Eng C Mater Biol Appl. 2013 Aug 1;33(6):3206-13. doi: 10.1016/j.msec.2013.03.051. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

Mechanical properties and structure of silkworm cocoons: a comparative study of Bombyx mori, Antheraea assamensis, Antheraea pernyi and Antheraea mylitta silkworm cocoons.

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Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre, Institute for Frontier Materials, Deakin University, VIC 3217, Australia.


As a protective shell against environmental damage and attack by natural predators, the silkworm cocoon has outstanding mechanical properties. In particular, this multilayer non-woven composite structure can be exceptionally tough to enhance the chance of survival for silkworms while supporting their metabolic activity. Peel, out-of-plane compression and nano-indentation tests and micro-structure analysis were performed on four types of silkworm cocoon walls (domesticated Bombyx mori, semi-domesticated Antheraea assamensis and wild Antheraea pernyi and Antheraea mylitta silkworm cocoons) to understand the structure and mechanical property relationships. The wild silkworm cocoons were shown to be uniquely tough composite structures. The maximum work-of-fracture for the wild cocoons (A. pernyi and A. mylitta) was approximately 1000 J/m(2), which was almost 10 times the value for the domesticated cocoon (Bombyx mori) and 3~4 times the value for the semi-domesticated cocoon (A. assamensis). Calcium oxalate crystals were found to deposit on the outer surfaces of the semi-domesticated and wild cocoons. They did not show influence in enhancing the interlaminar adhesion between cocoon layers but exhibited much higher hardness than the cocoon pelades.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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