In a world full of plastics, what can we expect to be its alternative, both strength and extensibility-wise? We can ponder over guesses like steel or rubber or may be something that contains both the qualities. The solution resides very much within the realms of mechanical engineering, which works on the two key concepts of material strength and extensibility.
The researchers created a truly new bio-based material by gluing together wood cellulose fibres and the silk protein found in spider web threads. This new bio-based material is reported to be superior to most of current synthetic and natural materials which have high strength, stiffness and enhanced toughness. And the best part is that, it does no harm to the environment. While cellulose is known for its strength, the silk threads produced by spiders offer impressive extensibility.
How does this affect the fashion industry? Well, plastic is used for creating a number of fabrics, such as nylon, organza, and faux leather. This means this new technology could enhance the creation of these fabrics while keeping the trend of creating sustainable fashion as well.
The researchers have taken inspiration from nature in developing the described material. Both wood fibres and spider silk have advantage over plastic, as they are biodegradable and do not hamper the environment.
The spider web silk used in the research, however, is not the actual one taken from spider webs. It is instead produced by the researchers using bacteria with synthetic DNA. Naturally, silk is produced by silkworms and spiders. But, scientists at Aalto University have sourced silk from bacteria augmented with synthetic DNA.
As the researchers know the structure of DNA and they can copy it and use it to manufacture silk protein molecules; so they have crafted a similar one as found in spider web threads.
This may sound like a dent in the widespread use of plastic, yet can bring noticeable environmental gains. People are switching from plastic to metal straws, using reusable shopping bags, and shopping at zero waste stores. This is the perfect time for an alternative to the multifaceted use of plastic in fashion.