Inspired by the silkworm, scientists at China’s Sichuan University have developed a faster and simpler method of producing nanofibers. According to the researchers, existing nanofiber production methods are either complicated, slow or produce substandard fibers. But the silkworm produces a high-quality, ultra-thin silk fiber quickly by secreting its sticky saliva onto a surface and then pulling its head back, drawing the saliva into a long thread.
The researchers have replicated that process in a technique known as microadhesion-guided (MAG) spinning, which involves pushing an array of microneedles into a piece of foam soaked with a polyethylene oxide solution, then pulling them back out again. By mimicking the different ways the silkworm moves its head when producing fibers, it’s also possible to create different sorts of nanofibers via the MAG spinning technique.
Nanofibers recently have been used in many applications, ranging from wound dressings, to air filters, to high-strength composite materials. A paper on the research, led by Yu Wang, Wei Yang and Xuewei Fu, was recently published in the journal Nano Letters. Photo: Depositphotos