Waterborne polyurethane (WPU) is a versatile and environment-friendly material with growing applications in both industry and academia. Silk fibroin (SF) is an attractive material known for its structural, biological and hemocompatible properties. The SF reinforced waterborne polyurethane (WPU) is a promising scaffold material for tissue engineering applications. In this work, we report synthesis and characterization of a novel nanocomposite using SF reinforced WPU. The rheological behaviors of WPU and WPU-SF dispersions with different solid contents were investigated with steady shear and dynamic oscillatory tests to evaluate the formation of the cross-linked gel structure. The average particle size and the zeta potential of WPU-SF dispersions with different SF content were examined at 25 °C to investigate the interaction between SF and WPU. FTIR, SEM, TEM and tensile testing were performed to study the effects of SF content on the structural morphology and mechanical properties of the resultant composite films. Experimental results revealed formation of gel network in the WPU dispersions at solid contents more than 17 wt %. The conjugate reaction between the WPU and SF as well as the hydrogen bond between them helped in dispersing the SF powder into the WPU matrix as small aggregates. Addition of SF to the WPU also improved the Young’s modulus from 0.30 to 3.91 MPa, tensile strength from 0.56 to 8.94 MPa, and elongation at break from 1067% to 2480%, as SF was increased up to 5 wt %. Thus, significant strengthening and toughening can be achieved by introducing SF powder into the WPU formulations.
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