'Smart Silk' In Quantity
Oxford University researchers have figured out how to force silkworms to produce large quantities of silk using a natural defense mechanism of silkworms.
(A major step towards the large-scale production of silks with tailor-made properties)
Professor Fritz Vollrath and colleagues from the Oxford Silk Group at Oxford University's Department of Zoology collected silk directly from paralysed silkworms by injecting a chemical that is naturally produced by the animal. In the wild silkworms produce this hormone when they are injured since, as they move their bodies through hydrostatic pressure, without this self-induced paralysis their wounds would get worse and they would risk 'bleeding out'.
The team's report in the journal Biomacromolecules this week concludes that, in comparison to unparalysed silkworms, paralysis allows longer and more consistent silks to be collected by eliminating the ability of the silkworm to break and alter its silk fibre.
Until now, it has not been possible to reel in hundreds of meters of silk under full control, which would be needed if harvesting tailored "smart-silks" with a variety of useful properties.
Dr Alex Woods, an entomologist and Oxford-based medical researcher responsible for the original discovery said: 'importantly, this may allow us to make high-quality silks with a variety of desirable mechanical properties, in practical quantities, to finally expand this exceptionally well-suited biomaterial into key medical applications.'
Robert Heinlein dreamed about something very similar - large quantities of spider silk with uniquely tailored properties: he called it synthetic spider silk - in his wonderful 1939 short story Misfit.
The problem was as follows: what could you use to make the roof of an inflated structure on an asteroid? You would want the lightest possible material, since you were boosting it from Earth.
Libby concentrated for an instant, then looked puzzled. "But look -- This valley is a thousand feet long and better than five hundred wide. At half of fifteen pounds per square inch, and allowing for the arch of the roof, that's a load of one and an eighth billion pounds. What fabric can take that kind of a load?"
"Yeah, cobwebs. Strongest stuff in the world, stronger than the best steel. Synthetic spider silk...
Via University of Oxford.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/21/2014)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Osmiridium Sounds Like Science Fiction (But It's Not!)
I can't resist science-fictional elements. Especially when they're real.
'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...' - Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1929.
Self-Healing Material Pulls Carbon Out Of The Air
'... could seal the punctures.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'- Philip K. Dick, 1957.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'
M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'
NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'
Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'
Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'
Vascularized Human Skin 3D Printed
Trillionaires Still Earth-Bound
'I shall never forget the sight... when the yellow gleam of the precious metal appeared under the star dust.'
Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.
3D Printed Dubai Building Is World's Largest
'This thing will start at one end of ...a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.'
Grow Plants On Moon Or Mars!
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.'
California Gets Shockwave Rider-Style Avoidance Zones
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'
Microbot Interstellar von Neumann Explorers
'Evidently they have never had a planet of their own...'
Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.'
Finally! Microsoft Surface Neo And Surface Duo Implement Excellent Courier Idea
'Runcible, whose pages were thicker and more densely packed with computational machinery...'
Tap Strap 2 Now With Air Mouse
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Legal Profession Now Fairly Bristling With AI
'The virtual counsel appeared to be about forty-five years old and prosperous.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories