Scientists have discovered that silkworm larvae fed on a diet of graphene and carbon nanotubes can spin a blend of silk that is both super strong and electrically conductive, opening a new door into embedded electronics.
With the cycling market already looking outside of the box to bolster the strength of fabrics, the discovery could provide new opportunities for manufacturers to create clothing that is both resistant to road rash in crashes and capable of hosting digital equipment such as heart rate measurement tools.
In making the discovery, scientists sprayed a water-based solution comprising graphene and carbon nanotubes onto Mulberry leaves – a silkworm favourite. Once the silkworms had digested the coated leaves they spun a new silk that displayed the new characteristics. Just 0.2% (by weight) of the foreign material was placed into the solution to achieve the results.
So, what are the highlight figures for the new blend?
- The new silk can withstand 50% more stress before breaking compared to ordinary silk.
- The material’s conductivity came in at 1,050 degrees once carbonized
Scientists now hope that the discovery could pave the way for a new age in wearable electronics and “smart fabrics”.