Unlocking silk for uses as an optical, digital, biological, or food storage device

[Fiorenzo Omenetto] gave a TED talk early last year to illustrates a lot of intriguing uses for silk. Before watching his presentation we would have been hard pressed to come up with a use for silk other than in clothing. But it turns out that investigating how silk worms create the material has led to a range of other applications. You can see the full talk embedded after the break.

One of the first things he shows off is a transparent film made of silk. The material looks almost like cellulose film, and can function in a similar way. [Fiorenzo] shines a laser through a silk slide that has a micro-dot of words embedded in it. the result is a clearly readable message projected on the wall. The film can also be used for holographic images.

But it’s the biodegradable aspects that are clearly the breakthrough here. A slide of silk can be doped with pharmaceuticals and programmed for a very specific time release. This way the drugs no longer need to be stored under refrigeration, and can be reclaimed using only water. The same properties allow one to manufacture disposable objects that will quickly and completely degrade. But there’s even more, if you dope the material with a conductor like gold it becomes a disposable circuit.

[via Hacked Gadgets]

Comments

  1. Haku says:

    Don’t tell Apple about disposable circuits, can you imagine what they’ll do with it??

    “You have violated the terms and conditions of this electronic device, it will now self destruct in 5…4…3…2…1…”

  2. Greenaum says:

    And with all the Indium and Tantalum and whatever else, being depleted milligrams at a time in a million gadgets, isn’t disposable electronics, y’know, a BAD idea?

    Sure we can send Indian and African children in to mine through piles of junk and electronic scrap, but should we?

    There’s too many irreplacable resources, mixed in with the horrible pollutants, being thrown away as it is. I don’t know who I’m complaining at, what change I want to make. Capitalism, I suppose.

    • Chris C. says:

      Agreed.

      There may be some legitimate uses for disposable electronics. But advertising is not one of them. Neither is making something disposable, easily breakable, or quickly obsolescent, to support business models based on getting customers to regularly repurchase something they already had.

      I’m hardly an environmentalist. But I still think sometimes we’re needlessly irresponsible, and for what? Even LED throwies make me sad.

      I’ll step off my soapbox now. Silk is certainly an amazing material.

    • Rob says:

      Indignation sometimes gives way to innovation… keep thinking, pushing, challenging, etc…

    • edonovan says:

      Electronics are already disposable, why not make it easier to dispose of them. Imagine dropping a board into a solution and watching most of it dissolve away. Even the African and Indian children would appreciate this.

    • Ed Jaws says:

      I think the goal… rather than making something biodegradable… is to reinforce the proper disposal of technology to better allow for reuse, repurposing, reengineering, and reintegration of components into the next (or more future) generation of technology.

      If silk can be integrated with gold, circuits and drugs primarily for the delivery of the drug, then the circuits and gold should be able to be recollected and used again in another product once the silk-protein delivery system has been absorbed/integrated into a body.

      How? That’s the next piece of the puzzle. How do you retrieve micro-portions of material from living tissue without damaging anything?

  3. marcus says:

    this is a HACK of silk?

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