Concentration-independent mechanics and structure of hagfish slime

Gaurav Chaudhary, Douglas S. Fudge, Braulio Macias-Rodriguez, Randy H Ewoldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The defense mechanism of hagfish slime is remarkable considering that hagfish cannot control the concentration of the resulting gel directly; they simply exude a concentrated material into a comparably “infinite” sea of water to form a dilute, sticky, cohesive elastic gel. This raises questions about the robustness of gel formation and rheological properties across a range of concentrations, which we study here for the first time. Across a nearly 100-fold change in concentration, we discover that the gel has similar viscoelastic time-dependent properties with constant power-law exponent (α=0.18±0.01), constant relative damping tanδ=G ′′ /G ≈0.2–0.3, and varying overall stiffness that scales linearly with the concentration (∼c 0.99±0.05 ). The power-law viscoelasticity (fit by a fractional Kelvin-Voigt model) is persistent at all concentrations with nearly constant fractal dimension. This is unlike other materials and suggests that the underlying material structure of slime remains self-similar irrespective of concentration. This interpretation is consistent with our microscopy studies of the fiber network. We derive a structure-rheology model to test the hypothesis that the origins of ultra-soft elasticity are based on bending of the fibers. The model predictions show an excellent agreement with the experiments. Our findings illustrate the unusual and robust properties of slime which may be vital in its physiological use and provide inspiration for the design of new engineered materials. Statement of Significance: Hagfish produce a unique gel-like material to defend themselves against predator attacks. The successful use of the defense gel is remarkable considering that hagfish cannot control the concentration of the resulting gel directly; they simply exude a small quantity of biomaterial which then expands by a factor of 10,000 (by volume) into an “infinite” sea of water. This raises questions about the robustness of gel formation and properties across a range of concentrations. This study provides the first ever understanding of the mechanics of hagfish slime over a very wide range of concentration. We discover that some viscoelastic properties of slime are remarkably constant regardless of its concentration. Such a characteristic is uncommon in most known materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-134
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Volume79
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Fingerprint

Hagfishes
Mechanics
Gels
Seawater
Fractals
Water
Fibers
Rheology
Elasticity
Viscoelasticity
Biocompatible Materials
Fractal dimension
Biomaterials
Microscopy
Microscopic examination
Damping
Stiffness

Keywords

  • Fiber network
  • Hydrogel
  • Intermediate-filaments
  • Power-law viscoelasticity
  • Structure-rheology model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology

Cite this

Concentration-independent mechanics and structure of hagfish slime. / Chaudhary, Gaurav; Fudge, Douglas S.; Macias-Rodriguez, Braulio; Ewoldt, Randy H.

In: Acta Biomaterialia, Vol. 79, 01.10.2018, p. 123-134.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Chaudhary, Gaurav ; Fudge, Douglas S. ; Macias-Rodriguez, Braulio ; Ewoldt, Randy H. / Concentration-independent mechanics and structure of hagfish slime. In: Acta Biomaterialia. 2018 ; Vol. 79. pp. 123-134.
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