Dilute gels with exceptional rigidity from self-assembling silk-collagen-like block copolymers

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Rheological data on monodisperse block copolymer hydrogels are rare because the amounts produced with various methods usually are not sufficient for materials testing. By biotechnological means, expression of a block copolymer encoding gene in the yeast Pichia pastoris, we produced enough protein block copolymer for a study of the macroscopic properties of several gels. To study the effect of block order on the mechanical properties of self-assembling block copolymer hydrogels, we tested gels of two molecules with complementary triblock organization: CSESEC and SECCSE, in which the SE block self assembles at low pH while the C block remains a random coil. Dynamic mechanical spectroscopy revealed differences in gelling kinetics and mechanical properties. The gels displayed non-linear elasticity comparable to that of actin gels and other networks of cross-linked semiflexible polymers. Moreover, exceptionally high storage moduli, exceeding 40 kPa, were reached already at concentrations as low as 1.5 wt%, without any additional crosslinking agent. Increasing the temperature of a CSESEC gel led to stiffening until 50 °C, above which it melted
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4191-4197
JournalSoft Matter
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • periodic polypeptides
  • elasticity
  • hydrogels
  • sequence
  • behavior
  • networks
  • polymers

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