'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.
Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'
Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'
Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'
Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!
China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.
Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories