Silkworm fibres six times stronger than Kevlar

Silkworms have been altered by boffins so they are capable of spinning fibres that are tougher than Kevlar.
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Silkworm fibres are six times stronger than Kevlar.

Silkworms have been altered by boffins so they are capable of spinning fibres that are tougher than Kevlar.

Picture credit : Jam Press

The fibres created are estimated to be six times tougher than the material used in bulletproof vests.

It was created by Junpeng Mi, a biologist at Donghua University in Shanghai, China and a team of researchers.

Following previous failures at engineering a stronger silk, the team worked with small spider silk proteins, known as MiSp.

Kevlar is a woven-lightweight material renowned for its strength and is also used in aircraft.

“It’s a really high-performance fibre,” said Justin Jones, one of the biologists who engineered spider silk at Utah University.

Picture credit : Jam Press

Practical uses for the material are endless, with suggestions of lightweight planes, wound dressings with faster healing and thin sutures for eye surgeries.

To commercially produce the fibres, the genetically altered silkworms would have to be crossbred on a large scale.

Junpeng hopes that he will be able to produce stronger proteins with further experiments, by incorporating unnatural amino acids.

It has yet to be seen if the larvae from the altered silkworms contain the same strong silk, with further testing being required.

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