Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University and the country’s VTT Technical Research Centre have created a new entrant in the competition to replace petroleum-based polymers and plastics.
The team bonded wood fibers with the silk protein of spiders’ webs. The resulting material is tough like wood but still pliable enough to stretch like a spider web and strong enough to withstand impacts without breaking. It could be used to weave cloth, as surgical thread, to make netting, and for packaging, among other possibilities.
The material doesn’t use actual spider silk. Instead, the scientists programmed bacteria with synthetic copies of spider silk’s DNA. Tweaking the genome inserted into the bacteria could produce different plastic alternatives that could be used to make surgical implants or impact-resistant car bodies, for example.
When discarded, the material would have no negative environmental impacts.
TRENDPOST: The race is on to stem the world’s rising tide of petro-plastic trash and replace conventional plastics with environmentally benign substitutes. By 2030, the transition to these friendlier versions of plastic will be well along, profiting inventors and their backers.