Silkworms Are Being Fed Graphene To Produce Stronger Silk That Conducts Electricity
Silk is naturally produced by silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves. The silk is used as a textile and is highly regarded for its beauty and for its mechanical strength. However, by feeding these silkworms with small amounts of carbon nanotubes and graphene, the silk became, even more, stronger than before.
Also known as a “miracle material”, graphene is known for its massive potential and the large number of uses in energy production, electronics, medicine and many others more. In order for silk to be produced in the first place, these silkworms use their salivary glands. In a study led by Yingying Zhang from Tsinghua University, silkworms were given small amounts of graphene into their diet and examined the effects.
The scientists sprayed mulberry leaves with a solution containing 0.2 percent graphene or carbon nanotubes and let the silkworms gorge themselves. This was a far easier method than to treating regular silk with graphene afterwards.
And to people’s surprise, the resulting silk was 50 stronger than the regular one and it even can conduct electricity. Zhang’s team also observed that the fibres had a more crystal-like structure under the microscope.
The uses of this material are numerous. Carbon silk can be used in biomechanics by showing an athlete the tension and pressure points applied on areas of the body during physical exercise. It can also be used to designing electronic clothing. These can be connected to smartphones and other appliances, or they can be used in creating biodegradable medical implants.
This simple, yet amazing material, made completely natural and with no negative impacts on both the environment or the silkworms themselves, are the future when it comes to wearable tech. A simple discovery but with a great deal of potential in what it can be used in.