Researchers have designed a super stretchy, strong and sustainable material that mimics the qualities of spider silk, and is ‘spun’ from a material that is 98% water.
This method of making fibres could be a sustainable alternative to current manufacturing methods.
A team of architects and chemists from the University of Cambridge has designed super-stretchy and strong fibres which are almost entirely composed of water, and could be used to make textiles, sensors and other materials. The fibres, which resemble miniature bungee cords as they can absorb large amounts of energy, are sustainable, non-toxic and can be made at room temperature.
This new method not only improves upon earlier methods of making synthetic spider silk, since it does not require high energy procedures or extensive use of harmful solvents, but it could substantially improve methods of making synthetic fibres of all kinds, since other types of synthetic fibres also rely on high-energy, toxic methods. The results are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Spider silk is one of nature’s strongest materials, and scientists have been attempting to mimic its properties for a range of applications, with varying degrees of success. “We have yet to fully recreate the elegance with which spiders spin silk,” said co-author Dr Darshil Shah from Cambridge’s Department of Architecture.
The fibres designed by the Cambridge team are “spun” from a soupy material called a hydrogel, which is 98% water. The remaining 2% of the hydrogel is made of silica and cellulose, both naturally available materials, held together in a network by barrel-shaped molecular “handcuffs” known as cucurbiturils. The chemical interactions between the different components enable long fibres to be pulled from the gel.
The fibres are pulled from the hydrogel, forming long, extremely thin threads – a few millionths of a metre in diameter. After roughly 30 seconds, the water evaporates, leaving a fibre which is both strong and stretchy.
“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,” said Shah. “However, our fibres are non-toxic and far less energy-intensive to make.”
The fibres are capable of self-assembly at room temperature, and are held together by supramolecular host-guest chemistry, which relies on forces other than covalent bonds, where atoms share electrons.
“When you look at these fibres, you can see a range of different forces holding them together at different scales,” said Yuchao Wu, a PhD student in Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, and the paper’s lead author. “It’s like a hierarchy that results in a complex combination of properties.”
The strength of the fibres exceeds that of other synthetic fibres, such as cellulose-based viscose and artificial silks, as well as natural fibres such as human or animal hair.
In addition to its strength, the fibres also show very high damping capacity, meaning that they can absorb large amounts of energy, similar to a bungee cord. There are very few synthetic fibres which have this capacity, but high damping is one of the special characteristics of spider silk. The researchers found that the damping capacity in some cases even exceeded that of natural silks.
“We think that this method of making fibres could be a sustainable alternative to current manufacturing methods,” said Shah. The researchers plan to explore the chemistry of the fibres further, including making yarns and braided fibres.
The Latest on: Sustainable synthetic fibres
- Microfiber pollution: The impact of clothing choices on the environment, oceanson October 18, 2019 at 1:58 pm
Gibson said there's a lot more variety of fabrics available on the market today. While some of these fabrics are sustainable or recycled, synthetic fabrics have become more popular due to the low cost ...
- How sustainable is organic cotton, really?on October 16, 2019 at 4:26 am
In fact, less than one per cent of all cotton produced is currently organic, meaning there is huge potential for improvement when it comes to how we make the fibre. Here, Vogue speaks to environmental ...
- How to Make Activewear Without Killing the Planeton October 15, 2019 at 9:20 pm
What Makes an Activewear Product Sustainable? Activewear is typically made from blended synthetic fibres to provide it with the desired stretch, lightness and sweat-wicking properties. Derived from ...
- ‘Suntory PepsiCo’ joins ‘Wongpanit’ waste segregation and PET recyclingon October 8, 2019 at 1:20 am
Mr. Charonchai Salyapong, Corporate Affairs Director of Suntory PepsiCo Beverage (Thailand) Company Limited (SPBT), operator and distributor of beverages under Suntory and PepsiCo trademarks, said ...
- How to take care of your clothes and make them laston October 7, 2019 at 5:59 am
A big part of sustainable fashion is making your clothes last ... The basic component of fabrics can be separated into two categories: natural (cotton, wool, silk) and synthetic fibres (polyester, ...
- Synthetic Fibre Suppliers serving North Carolinaon September 13, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Manufacturer of recycled and sustainable material products. Product line includes fibers, textiles, flakes, pellets, resins and yarns. Industries served cover the accessories, apparel, automotive, ...
- Hyosung to show sustainable fibres for denim at Bluezoneon August 29, 2019 at 12:12 am
"Aerolight fibre is suitable for all seasons, combining the advantages of both synthetic and natural fibres," said Simon ... "Anticipating changing market dynamics, we continue to develop leading ...
- Why it's even more important than you thought to wear a sustainable bikini this summeron April 22, 2019 at 1:08 am
"We are still learning more about microfibres which is an issue for both natural and synthetic fibres, but this is also worth considering when it comes to swimwear,” says Vocking. Simply put, ...
- Why you should go eco-friendly, opt clothes in natural fibreson February 18, 2019 at 8:25 pm
these natural fibres are now blended with other synthetic materials. A decade ago, the United Nations decided to dedicate a year to natural fibres and put the spotlight on sustainable products and ...
- Unifi Presents New Sustainable Fibers That are Made from Recyclable Materialon January 28, 2019 at 5:28 am
The New Sustainable Fibers include TruFlexx™ stretch fiber, TruClean™ anti-static fiber and REPREVE ... provider and one of the world's leading innovators in manufacturing synthetic and recycled ...
via Google News and Bing News