Spinning Fine Threads: Silkworms coerced to make better silk | Science News

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Spinning Fine Threads: Silkworms coerced to make better silk

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10:03am, August 14, 2002

The caterpillars that spin commercial silk can make much tougher or more elastic threads, depending on how fast they're forced to spin.

If this research finding is translated into a marketable process for obtaining silk, the fibers could rival those of widely acclaimed but commercially impractical spider silk, says Fritz Vollrath of Oxford University.

Many scientists hold that spider silk is the ultimate material–strong and tough, yet elastic. If produced in large quantities, spider silk could replace synthetic materials in surgical sutures, seat belts, or even carpeting, suggests Carl Michal of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

But harvesting spider silk is labor intensive. Spiders must be tied down and their silk reeled out using a small motor. What's more, "if you put many spiders in

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