SCHOOL MEETING SHARE: SILK ENGINEEERING

Written and Presented by 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Graders, October 10, 2014

Last Thursday, three silk engineers came to our school. Their names were Fio, Ben,and Alex. They research and experiment very creative uses of silk in technology, construction and healthcare. The scientists discovered how to use a liquid form of silk. This is the substance that silkworms create in their silk glands. The scientists take the cocoon and boil it in salt water to replicate the substance from the silkmoth’s glands. They can then use it to build all sorts of different things. We were wowed by how much you could make from silk! You could build structures and domes out of silk. Silk can be used to make a card like a credit card that can store information as well as holograms that can hold images. They can make tattoos with microchips in them that can sense different information about your body. They have created thin needles out of silk so you don’t have to use big needles. They’re even working on sending electricity through silk strands. They have also created sensors to stick on foods to tell when something goes bad. The sensors themselves are edible!

silk sheet.JPG

Silk is very cool because it can be edible and also biodegradable. The scientists are working on creating everything from compostable cups to biodegradable (and edible!) phones. The purpose of their research is to make the world better. If we make a lot of things out of silk then they will decompose naturally over time rather than filling landfills. It’s better because you’re using natural resources rather than plastics. At the end, they gave us all silkmoth cocoons. If you unraveled one, it would stretch about a mile, or from here to Donelan’s. They also showed us a big pile of silk thread. It felt fuzzy and soft. We were so excited with their research and wanted to hear more. As we watch our own silkmoths grow, we’ve been inspired to do our own experiments and keep learning about interesting things to do with silk! We can’t wait to see what the researchers invent next and we hope they come back to share more with us soon.

Fio Omenetto spoke at TED recently and his talk can be viewed here.