In the United Kingdom, University of Sheffield researchers demonstrated that animals spin silk by pulling rather than pushing it out of their bodies. They suggest that if this process can be copied in an industrial setting, it could improve how synthetic materials are processed and offer more environmentally-friendly alternatives, especially for synthetic fibers.
Conventional synthetic textiles are made by extrusion — pushing a liquid feedstock through a dye and then using high changes in temperature and exposure to harsh chemicals to solidify. However, silk can solidify into a fibre at room temperature and leave only water – therefore causing less environmental damage.
Lead author Jamie Sparkes, a PhD student in the University of Sheffield’s Natural Materials Group, said in their press release, “Silk is one of the most promising green biomaterials, and could be the perfect replacement for nylon and polyester based clothing.”