Moisture Sensitive Smart Yarns and Textiles from Self-Balanced Silk Fiber Muscles

Tianjiao Jia, Yang Wang, Yuanyuan Dou, Yaowang Li, Monica Jung de Andrade, Run Wang, Shaoli Fang, Jingjing Li, Zhou Yu, Rui Qiao, Zhuangjian Liu, Yuan Cheng, Yewang Su, Majid Minary-Jolandan, Ray H. Baughman, Dong Qian, Zunfeng Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Smart textiles that sense, interact, and adapt to environmental stimuli have provided exciting new opportunities for a variety of applications. However, current advances have largely remained at the research stage due to the high cost, complexity of manufacturing, and uncomfortableness of environment-sensitive materials. In contrast, natural textile materials are more attractive for smart textiles due to their merits in terms of low cost and comfortability. Here, water fog and humidity-driven torsional and tensile actuation of thermally set twisted, coiled, plied silk fibers, and weave textiles from these silk fibers are reported. When exposed to water fog, the torsional silk fiber provides a fully reversible torsional stroke of 547° mm −1 . Coiled-and-thermoset silk yarns provide a 70% contraction when the relative humidity is changed from 20% to 80%. Such an excellent actuation behavior originates from water absorption-induced loss of hydrogen bonds within the silk proteins and the associated structural transformation, which are corroborated by atomistic and macroscopic characterization of silk and molecular dynamics simulations. With its large abundance, cost-effectiveness, and comfortability for wearing, the silk muscles will open up additional possibilities in industrial applications, such as smart textiles and soft robotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1808241
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 2 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • silk fiber
  • smart textile
  • soft robot
  • tensile muscle
  • torsional muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Electrochemistry
  • Biomaterials


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