A simple process turns cocoons into optical devices with biological applications.
By Katherine Bourzac
Fiorenzo Omenetto on the steps of the Tufts bioengineering building, where he makes silk optical devices.
Credit: Porter Gifford
Silkworm cocoons shipped by the boxful from Japan to an optics lab at Tufts University will meet a different fate from those headed to textile factories around the world. Rather than being woven into curtains or clothing, the strong protein fibers that caterpillars once spun around themselves will be used to build optical materials that can serve as the basis for sensors and other devices. Bioengineer Fiorenzo Omenetto, who creates the devices, ultimately hopes to build implantable, biodegradable sensors that could help monitor patients' progress after surgery or track chronic diseases such as diabetes.
(Via Technology Review)