Scientists feed silkworms graphene to create super strong silk

Graphene is the subject of all sorts of experiments and is hailed as a wonder material. Graphene has the potential to be used in all sorts of devices from gadgets to medical gear in the future. A group of researchers have taken a new tact on graphene experiments by adding graphene to mulberry leaves fed to silkworms to see what would happen.

What happened is the silkworms were able to weave silk that was carbon-reinforced and twice as strong as normal silk. The research is being conducted at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The scientists think that the new stronger silk has a myriad of potential uses from wearable electronics to more durable fabrics and perhaps biodegradable medical implants.

"Silkworm silk is gaining significant attention from both the textile industry and research society because of its outstanding mechanical properties and lustrous appearance," states a paper describing the research published in the journal Nano Letters. "The possibility of creating tougher silks attracts particular research interest."

"We report mechanically enhanced silk directly collected by feeding...silkworms with single-walled carbon nanotubes and graphene. We found that parts of the fed carbon nanomaterials were incorporated into the as-spun silk fibers."

Scientists outside of the experiment believe that the results of the research suggest that production of the stronger silk could be scaled up. Graphene is a one-atom thick material that has carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice that is 200-times stronger than steel. While being super strong, the material also conducts electricity better than copper and is as flexible as rubber. There is no word on when the stronger silk might find its way to the retail market. Graphene has vast potential and is seen as a material of the future.

SOURCE: Newsweek