Thursday, March 17, 2011
New Scientist reports: [edited]
A special diet is all it takes to make a silkworm produce fluorescent silk of a particular hue. After feasting on a mixture of mulberries and fluorescent dye, the worm pictured above produced threads of bright pink silk.
According to researchers at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore, the process is "simple and cheap enough to be translated to an industrial scale". Producing such "intrinsically coloured" silks would provide a more environmentally friendly approach for the silk industry, reducing its vast consumption of water and dyes.
Aside from environmental advantages, the technique could also have medical applications. The researchers suggest their work could help create functional silk with antibacterial, anticoagulant or anti-inflammatory properties for use in wound-dressings.
Image: Dr Natalia C. Tansil