First Advisor

Derek Tretheway

Date of Publication

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical and Materials Engineering




Microfluidics, Chromatographic analysis, Porous materials, Silk



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 71 p.) : ill. (chiefly col.)


Silk fibroin from silkworm cocoons is found in numerous applications ranging from textiles to medical implants. Its recent adoption as a biomaterial is due to the material's strength, biocompatibility, self-assembling behavior, programmable degradability, optical clarity, and its ability to be functionalized with antibodies and proteins. In the field of bioengineering it has been utilized as a tissue scaffolding, drug delivery system, biosensor, and implantable electrode. This work suggests a new application for porous silk in a microscale chromatography column. We demonstrate in situ cryotropic polymerization of highly porous structures in microscale geometries by freezing aqueous silk with a solvent. The resulting cryogels are experimentally characterized using flow parameters common in chromatography design; tortuosity, global pressure drop, pore diameter, and porosity. These empirical parameters are put into porous flow models to calculate an order-of-magnitude increase in functional surface area over the blank capillaries and packed-sphere columns used in traditional designs. Additionally, the pressure requirements to produce relevant flow rates in these structures are found not to threaten the integrity of microfluidic seals or connectors.


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