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Chinese scientists engineer spider silks tougher than bulletproof vest

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-09-22 14:32
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SHANGHAI -- Chinese scientists have developed the first whole full-length spider silk fiber obtained from genetically-engineered silkworms, exhibiting a six-fold toughness when compared to a bulletproof vest.

The researchers from Donghua University drew inspiration from nylon and Kevlar, a material used in bulletproof vests, and proposed a theory on the nature of toughness and strength, thus unveiling the basic structure of silk fibers.

Then, they employed a gene editing tool to synthesize whole polyamide spider silk fibers from transgenic silkworms, showcasing both high tensile strength and exceptional toughness, according to a study published in the journal Matter this week.

It is crucial to develop sustainable, eco-friendly, high-strength and ultra-tough alternatives to non-sustainable synthetic fibers, such as nylon, said the researchers.

The results pave the way for spider silk's commercialization as a sustainable substitute for synthetic fibers, and it can be used in making surgical sutures and comfortable bulletproof vests, according to the study.

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