Graphene added Silkworms’s diet can produce stronger silk threads

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-12-19 16:00:00 – Beijing

Silk is a natural fiber made by the silk worm larve because of its beauty and mechanical strength it is popularly used in textile applications. According to a study led by Yingying Zhang from Tsinghua University by adding Graphene, a carbon nanoparticle to the silkworms’s diet of mulberry leaves the threads can become even stronger and tougher.

Graphene is considered a “miracle material” as it has shown massive potential in energy, electronics, medicine, and more. The researchers sprayed mulberry leaves with aqueous solutions containing 0.2 percent by weight of either carbon nanotubes or graphene, and then collected the silk after the worms spun their cocoons. Collecting the as-spun silk fibers is standard in silk production, so feeding the silkworms the carbon nanotubes and graphene was a much simpler method than treating regular silk with the nanomaterials dissolved in chemical solvents after collection.

The carbon-enhanced silk was twice as tough as regular silk and could withstand at least 50 percent higher stress before breaking.

Zhang’s team tested conductivity and structure after heating the silk fibers at 1,050°C (1,922°F) to carbonize the silk protein, and unlike untreated silk, the carbon-enhanced silk conducted electricity. Additionally, spectroscopy and microscopic imaging showed that the modified silk fibers had a more ordered crystal structure.

The method used by the team at Tsinghua University is an easy way to produce high-strength silk fibers on a large scale. This could be one step closer to an exciting future of readily available wearable tech that could improve the lives of everyone.

As garments made using smart textiles have so many more potential uses than those created using traditional materials. A conductive fabric using this carbon-enhanced silk could have applications in biomechanics, showing an athlete the tension and pressure applied on areas of the body during exertion. It could also be used in tech for electronic clothing.

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