Silk is the Future!
A simple change to the way the silkworm cocoon is processed makes silk more flexible, paving the way for new applications in medicine and technology. With the invention of reconstituted silk, this natural material has undergone a renaissance. The new form of silk is superior in several ways to the materials typically used and can now be applied in a series of innovative ways.
- Eco-friendly plastic substitute
Silk biodegrades faster than plastic, does not pollute and, unlike plastic, contains no harmful substances.
- Self-dosing medicine
Medicine coated in silk may eventually be programmed to release in the body over a period of time.
- Degradable optics
Reconstituted silk is transparent and can be used to make lenses. Because silk doesn’t contain anything harmful, lenses made from silk can be left in the body. As an extra bonus, the lenses may also be used to diagnose eye diseases.
- Intelligent date-stamping
Silk film with built-in electronics can be used to date-stamp food, warning the store or consumer when goods have become too old. The silk film is edible, so it doesn’t constitute a health risk.
- Artificial tissue
Silk is strong and can be integrated in the body, making it useful for treating fractures and in creating artificial tissue.
- Convenient storage of medicine
Silk can form a container around medicine, allowing it to be transported without losing its effect, even at extreme temperatures.
- Artificial corneas
Silk is well suited for artificial corneas, since the material has optical qualities and will not be rejected by the body.
Silk coating makes organs invisible
In the future, metamaterials made of silk will be able to make organs invisible, allowing doctors to see things hiding deep inside the body. Silk film’s special ability to contour precisely to a given surface without harming living tissue makes it especially well suited to this purpose.
A metamaterial made of silk film with a specially created surface can conduct electromagnetic radiation around the encapsulated organ, rendering it invisible. Doctors will be able to see problems in tissue or other organs behind it, so they won’t have to move the organ or perform surgery and endoscopy.
The covered organ will still be seen under normal visible-light conditions — the film will only make it invisible at wavelengths that can only be shown on a screen in the visible spectrum. However, metamaterials can, in principle, also be made to function with visible light.
The history of silk:
Archaeological excavations in China reveal a primitive loom that may have been used in silk production.
~ 3000 B.C.E.
The first known record of silk production in China using the domesticated silkworm, Bombyxmori. Around this time, a legend arises that silk was “discovered” by a Chinese empress when a silkworm cocoon fell into her tea and unraveled when she pulled it out.
~ 200 B.C.E.
The Silk Road — a network of trade routes originating in China that transport many”exotic”goodsto Europe — reaches the West.
~ 140 B.C.E.
Silk production begins in India.
~ 1 C.E
Silk reaches Rome for the first time
~ 550 C.E.
Silk is produced in Constantinople. Legend has it that monks smuggled silkworms here from China.
~ 1400s C.E.
Silk begins to flourish in Europe, especially in Italy and France.
Scientists from Tufts University make the first reconstituted silk.
Scientists make several different products from reconstituted silk.
Scientists experiment with making metamaterials of silk.