Researchers at Tsinghua University in China have found that spraying a solution containing 0.2 per cent graphene or carbon nanotubes (basically rolls of graphene) onto a silkworm’s regular diet of mulberry leaves causes them to spin silk that is 50 per cent stronger than usual.
After putting the silk into a spectrometer, the team found that the ‘super silk’ had a more orderly structure than regular silk with parts of the fed carbon nanomaterials incorporated into the fibres. This graphite-like structure also allows the fibres to conduct electricity.
The team are as yet unsure how the carbon materials made it into the silk but say the process could be scaled up to produce large batches. It could potentially be used to make eco-friendly protective fabrics, stronger medical implants or wearable electronics, they say.