Spidey sense tingles for sustainability

A new method to make sustainable manmade spider silk has been developed. A team of scientists and architects from the University of Cambridge have worked out how to create the stretchy, […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

A new method to make sustainable manmade spider silk has been developed.

A team of scientists and architects from the University of Cambridge have worked out how to create the stretchy, strong substance without relying on energy intensive procedures or using toxic chemicals as was previously necessary.

They say the same techniques could be applied in a number of ways to unlock the green manufacture of a range of other synthetic fibres.

The new silk is spun from hydrogel, a material made up of 98% water and 2% silica and cellulose – once it is drawn out the water evaporates, leaving a strand measuring only a few millionths of a metre in diameter.

Dr Darshil Shah, from Cambridge’s Department of Architecture, said: “Although our fibres are not as strong as the strongest spider silks, they can support stresses in the range of 100 to 150 megapascals, which is similar to other synthetic and natural silks.

“However, our fibres are non-toxic and far less energy intensive to make. We think that this method of making fibres could be a sustainable alternative to current manufacturing methods.”

These fibres could potentially be used to create sustainable clothing.