Saturday, January 18, 2014

Scientists Color Silk By Feeding Silkworms Fabric Dyes

This is an odd bit of empirical work that may or may not have a meaningful application.  If they are really lucky, they may produce something unique and important with real commercial value.

My problem with that is that we live in an age of massive chemical knowledge that really does not need any special biological assistance.  Thus we end up with a curiosity that could have been exciting a century or two ago.  Dye stuff was integral to international trade until the Germans invented industrial science in the late nineteenth century.  After that it all blew away.

Otherwise it is a neat bit of work and may still have value.

Scientists Color Silk By Feeding Silkworms Fabric Dyes

The process is designed to be more environmentally friendly than traditional dyeing.
 Posted 12.04.2013 at 2:00 pm 

Silkworms Fed a Red Dye Form Pink Silk 

American Chemical Society, from "Uptake of Azo Dyes into Silk Glands for Production of Colored Silk Cocoons Using a Green Feeding Approach"

Brown cows may not actually make chocolate milk, but pink silkworms do produce pink skeins of silk, a team of scientists has discovered. To see if they could produce pre-dyed silk—silk that comes colored, straight from the source—the team fed ordinary silkworms mulberry leaves that had been sprayed with fabric dyes. Out of seven tested dyes, only one worked, producing a thread that reminded me of pink-dyed hair.

And yes, the worms themselves take on some color before they weave their silk cocoons. Their colorful diets did not affect their growth, the team, which included engineers and biologists from the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in India, reports in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. (The researchers didn't look too deeply into how the dyes affected the silkworms' health. After all, silkworms die when people harvest their silk.)

The team investigated dyeing silk this way because coloring fabric normally uses enormous amounts of fresh water. The water gets contaminated with dangerous chemicals in the process, requiring costly treatment before factories can dump it back into waterways—or wreaking havoc when factory owners dodge cleanup rules.

Dyeing silk directly by feeding silkworms would eliminate those water-washing steps. Scientists are just starting to study this idea, however, it remains to be seen if it's commercially viable. In this experiment, the Indian team tested seven azo dyes, which are cheap and popular in the industry.

The scientists found different dyes moved through silkworms' bodies differently. Some never made it into the worms' silk at all. Others colored the worms and their cocoons, but the color molecules settled mostly in the sticky protein the worms add to their cocoons. That sticky stuff gets washed away before the silk is turned into fabric. Only one dye, named "direct acid fast red," showed up in the final, washed silk threads. By the time it made it there, it was a pleasant, light pink.

1 comment:

  1. We who are subjects to the New World Command or NWO also 'weave in the 'colors' commanded and desired by our masters, for we, too, are 'fed' artificial dyes, chemical additives and GMO's. Our diet is what they say it will be and we will 'weave' what they want us to weave and we'll soon know nothing else. Human silkworms of world economy, we'll be.