Secrets of Silk Science

March 8, 2011

It is said that that the Chinese closely and successfully guarded the secrets of silk production until a Chinese princess was sent to marry the king of the Taklamakan Desert oasis, Khotan. As the story goes, this princess carried to her new kingdom silkworm cocoons hidden in her gowns and destroyed the Chinese monopoly on silk production. Today, scientists are still baffled as to how silkworms and, more interestingly, spiders produce their extremely flexible yet resilient strands of silk.

Researchers are exploring new applications for silk. (Picture by Bryce Vickmark for The New York Times)

The article, The Reinvention of Silk, published in the New York Times, reports that researchers are investigating the formation and composition of silk in order to further explore radical applications of a fiber which has been in use for millenia. From blood vessel grafts to films that store medicines at room temperature for long periods of time, research is being conducted on new and powerful uses for silk in the medical and industrial fields. It is nice to know that the Secrets of the Silk Road’s eponymous luxury fabric still holds many secrets.