Spider Silk Could Spin a Web of Biodegradable Microchips
My wife hates spiders. If I hear a shriek come from another room, I don’t assume a serial killer has broken into the house. Instead, I pick up a shoe and go forth to do battle with yet another arachnid. Scientists, however, really like spiders. More specifically, they are interested by the properties of spider silk.
Spider silk is astonishingly strong, biodegradable, and is basically ignored by the human immune system. The main problem with using spider silk is how difficult it is to harvest. Engineering on the Edge took a look at improving the supply of spider silk all the way back here. But new research has emerged.
“These materials are harmless, so you can implant them,” said biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto of Tufts University. “The body has no reaction to them.”
A number of different scientists are working on ways of using spider silk to build biodegradable microchip or other miniaturized electronics. Creating a device to monitor an injury by using spider silk would allow doctors to watch the progress of the injury without the worry of having to retrieve it later.
Nolwenn Huby from the CNRS Institut de Physiques de Rennes in France is also interested by the potential to use spider silk for fiber optics. The silk directs light in the same way as glass microfibers, and is ready for use directly from the source. Glass microfibers, on the other hand, require expensive processing before they can be used.
Below you’ll find a TED video about spider silk.