'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?" "Cobwebs."

"Cobwebs?"

"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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Material ")

Self-Adapting Composite Heals Itself
'...Could seal the punctures that grain-of-sand-sized meteors might make.' - Ramond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Strong Metal, Light Metal - Same Metal!
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...' - Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1929.

New Glass Tough As Steel
'Windows of an artificial transparent element...'' - Olaf Stapledon, 1930.

Blackest Black? New Disordered Nanostructured Material
'Well, we have a black coating now thatís ninety-nine percent absorptive...' - Doc Smith, 1934.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Turing's Nose - Was That Scent Real Or Artificial?
'Rippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender...'

Xian'er Buddhist Monk Robot
'Getting to his feet he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth...'

AnBot Security Robot WILL Tase You, Bro
Michael Crichton right again.

Hover Camera - Unfold Drone, Shoot Selfie
'He set his camera to follow him...'

A Baker's Dozen Of Autonomous Car-Related Revolutions
'Old people began to cross the continent in their own cars.'

Would You Date A Robot? 1 in 4 Say 'Yes'!
'My hands touched a great keyboard, whence, perfect through long practice, I could direct lifelike motion.'

Sophia, The Personable Robot From Hanson Robotics.
'The de luxe model... has fifty different facial expressions...'

Swimming, Slithering Snake Robot
John Connor, how do you feel about swimming snakes?

The First 'Drone Cafe' Started By Dutch Students
'It was a smooth ovoid floating a few inches from the floor...'

Astronaut Tim Peake Completes Space Marathon
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses...'

Aerojet Rocketdyne 'Ion Drive' To Reach The Asteroids? (Update!)
'It has its own ion drive...'

Beatie Wolfe's Album Is A Deck Of NFC Cards
'The greater trumps ready to step right out through those glistening surfaces.'

Is Social Media Saving Space Travel?
'Officially, they were delighted to share their experiences with the public.'

iBubble Scuba Drone Follower
'Hovered behind him like a large tame bee...'

Ironing Robot May Fulfill Russian Science Fiction Dreams
Sometimes, the old inventions are the best.

Organic Photonic Skin Display
'A strip of readout skin on my wrist...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.