MONDAY, 19 DECEMBER 2011
The ‘bumpy’ silk structure is synthetically emulated by running a nylon fibre through a reservoir of PMMA polymer solution, drawing it out via a thin tube. The solution dries almost insta ntly to form a solid coating, and the thread is then wound directly onto a reel. If the drawing speed is carefully matched to the viscosity of the polymer solution, the coating becomes uneven and periodically forms knots that mimic those found on spider silk. Since the materials are inexpensive, this procedure could easily be scaled up to industrial levels.
Countries such as Peru and Chile with low rainfall but misty mountainous regions currently use nets made out of nylon and PMMA polymer to harvest water from atmospheric moisture. However, the new bio-inspired fibres could allow for much more efficient water-capture due to larger drop formation.
Written by Katy Wei