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Optical Silk

September 10, 2008

Silk makes a good material for biodegradable sensors.


Silky smooth sensors….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Silk may be a luxurious material for clothing and bedsheets, but now, researchers have found that it makes a good optical material too. Fiorenzo Omenetto is a biomedical engineer at Tufts University. He and his colleagues boiled silkworm cocoons and extracted the proteins to form a pure, silk solution.

FIORENZO OMENETTO (Tufts University):
By just pouring it on a flat surface can be reformed into these freestanding, very clear films that resemble a very transparent piece of plastic or piece of thin glass.

HIRSHON: Omenetto and his colleagues are exploring one potential application: a sensor for bagged produce that changes color if the food is spoiled. Since silk-based sensors would be safe to eat, you could munch the sensor along with your veggies. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.