Silk Worms are Spinning a Tough New Fabric


Silk is a glossy and smooth fabric originating from the fibers of silk worms.  This textile of the high sheen has known for thousands of years.  Silk, once a highly prized fabric, is known for its comfort, sheen, and softness.   Now scientists have been at work to create a super strong silk.

Researchers at Tsinghua University in China apply an aqueous graphene mix with single-walled carbon nanotubes to mulberry leaves, the diet of silk worms.  Graphene is the strongest material in the world.  What is fascinating that at one molecule thickness, it is 100 times stronger than steel of the same thickness, conducts electricity, and will not rust.  Furthermore, graphene conducts heat and electricity better than copper and is extremely light weight.  Another feature of graphene is it optical transparency where researchers are finding its way into photodetectors and lasers.

Research has found that graphene is in the silk of the larva consuming the coated mulberry leaves.  The results have discovered a silk that is a better conductor of electricity, greater velocity, and a much tougher fiber.  This new breakthrough is going to open the possibilities of large-scale production of high-strength silk fibers.

Research continues to determine how much graphene is incorporated into the silk and how much is excrement.  What is the concentration of graphene in the silk and could there be a way to increase the graphene content of the silk?  Work continues to find the results of the single-walled carbon nanotubes to the diet and resultant silk.

Scientists in electronics, medicine and textiles are looking at the possibilities of this new tough silk.  Some thoughts are a thinner yet stronger protective fabric.  One could have clothing embedded with electronics.  Medicine could find new products with this material for implants that would be biodegradable.