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Science Gives Silkworms Spiderman-esque Silk

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Researchers have successfully beefed up the delicate thread of the silkworm by feeding them graphene, or single-walled carbon nanotubes. You know what that means. Get ready for some silky-smooth wearable tech.


According to Scientific American:

To make carbon-reinforced silk, Yingying Zhang and her colleagues at Tsinghua University fed the worms mulberry leaves sprayed with aqueous solutions containing 0.2% by weight of either carbon nanotubes or graphene and then collected the silk after the worms spun their cocoons, as is done in standard silk production. Treating already spun silk would require dissolving the nanomaterials in toxic chemical solvents and applying those to the silk, so the feeding method is simpler and more environmentally friendly.


The resulting material can endure 50% higher stress before breaking than regular silk and it conducts electricity after being heated at 1,050 °C.

Materials scientist Yaopeng Zhang has worked with silkworms in the past and conducted experiments in which he fed them titanium dioxide nanoparticles to make their thread resistant to ultraviolet degradation. He tells Scientific American that “the electrical conductivity of the carbon-reinforced silk might make it suitable for sensors embedded in smart textiles and to read nerve signals.”

The future may look more like a suburban swinger party in the 70's than cyberpunk.

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Bombyx mori is a really cool animal (because honestly humans have not domesticated many insects) and the adults are absolutely gorgeous lepidopterans.

^ A face any fan of silk can love.