'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 -
Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon
'It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures...'- Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme. - Frank Herbert, 1965.
Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'- J.G. Ballard, 1962.
3D Printed Graphene Aerogel - So Light!
'... light as cork and stronger than steel...' - Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1929.
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.
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.
ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.
When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'
Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'
'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'
Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'
Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'
Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.
Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'
Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'
Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories