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Speed plays crucial role in breaking protein's H-bonds
Date:10/30/2007

piece of knowledge to engineers understanding of how organic materials work efficiently and provides important insight into how a proteins structure defines its unique mechanical properties. They showed that in order to enhance a proteins mechanical strength, the strands of amino acids should fold so that three or four parallel hydrogen bonds form at each convolution of the protein. Experimental evidence shows that proteins actually do fold so that hydrogen bonds form at the rate of 3.6 bonds per convolution.

In addition to enhanced strength, the proteins geometry also leads to a highly robust structure that provides it with an 80 percent robustness rate, giving it very high marks from an engineering perspective. (A 100 percent rating could be applied only to a fail-safe structure.) This 80 percent level of robustness, while simultaneously providing significant mechanical strength enables the biological structure to minimize the use of materials and make it efficient overall and able to sustain extreme mechanical conditions, said the authors.

By contrast, the lack of robustness in many synthetic materials makes it necessary for engineers to introduce large safety factors that guarantee a structures functionality under extreme conditions. For instance, an engineering structure such as a tall building must be able to withstand loads that are 10 times greater than usual, just to protect it in case of one tiny crack, said Buehler. By studying biological building materials and using a bottom-up structural design and synthesis approach, we hope to discover new ways to create stronger synthetic materials, he said.

This new understanding could lead to the development of stronger, more robust materials that consume less energy in their manufacturing and transport. Such advances are only possible by including the molecular scale into the engineering design approach, said Buehler.


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Contact: Denise Brehm
brehm@mit.edu
617-253-8069
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Source:Eurekalert

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