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Researchers produced super-strong silk feeding carbon nanotubes to silkworms

Researchers produced super-strong silk feeding carbon nanotubes to silkworms Researchers now report a clever way to make the gossamer threads even stronger and tougher: by feeding silkworms graphene or single-walled carbon nanotubes. The reinforced silk produced by the silkworms could be used in applications such as durable protective fabrics, biodegradable medical implants, and eco-friendly wearable electronics, they say.

In contrast to regular silk, the carbon-enhanced silks are twice as tough and can withstand at least 50% higher stress before breaking. The team heated the silk fibres at 1,050 įC to carbonise the silk protein and then studied their conductivity and structure.

The modified silks conduct electricity, unlike regular silk. Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy imaging showed that the carbon-enhanced silk fibres had a more ordered crystal structure due to the incorporated nanomaterials. The electrical conductivity of the carbon-reinforced silk might make it suitable for sensors embedded in smart textiles and to read nerve signals

To make carbon-reinforced silk, Yingying Zhang and her colleagues at Tsinghua University fed the worms mulberry leaves sprayed with aqueous solutions containing 0.2% by weight of either carbon nanotubes or graphene and then collected the silk after the worms spun their cocoons, as is done in standard silk production.
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