The Diversity of Silk

Silk has many uses and has been known for thousands of years in China and the Far East where rich merchants and rulers used the thread manufactured from silk moth cocoons to produce beautiful fabrics. The process has been exported around the world and the high class of clothing made from silk is for all who aspire to the top tier of fashion. When mixed with other fabric yarns the outcome can also be outstanding at a lesser cost.

In recent times silk threads have also been used, apart from clothing manufacture, in the biomedical industry for bandages and sutures. However the recent advances are with the use of Spider Silk which has a higher tensile strength and also more elasticity than traditional silk. Experiments taken place by Notre Dame University, the University of Wyoming and Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc., have been able to genetically produce a highbred silkworm that produces a cocoon from a combination of silkworm and spider silk.

This new product not only produces a better bandage and suture for the medical industry but also can be used for artificial skin for wounds and burns cases. Due to its high tensile strength experiments are being carried out for improved air bags for safety in cars, stronger fabrics, athletic clothing and even for the production of bullet proof vests. Silk vests are currently used by Thai police using 16 layers of ordinary silk fabric as they have a huge silk industry in that country. However when large quantities of the new spider enhance fabric are available, there would not be the need for so many layers as tests have shown the spider silk vest to be twice as strong as Kevlar, the current favoured fabric.

Scientists have even genetically altered goat DNA for them to produce milk with the spider silk embedded in it. This operation will enable large quantities of the silk to be produced and we can look forwards to a greater use of this brilliant natural material, albeit ‘adjusted’ by the Human race. Many more uses will eventually be found, especially in the medical areas where reconstruction of bodies is an ever growing industry for people wishing to live longer. Already skin is being produce in large quantities that enable burn victims to lead a better and improved life.

A recent garment was put on show in London made from Golden Orb Weaver Silk and is absolutely stunning but with a price in the millions. It took the harvesters over three years to produce the quantity necessary. Amazing applications for the future these advancements hold.

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