Fluorescent silk cocoons fluorescing under UV light

Fluorescent silk cocoons fluorescing under UV light

If you ever did that experiment where you left cut white carnations in tinted water until the flowers were edged with color, then you’ll understand what Dr. Natalia Tansil and her team at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering have been doing with silkworms.

Above, you can see the amazing results – silk cocoons that haven’t been through a water-intensive dying process, but have been spun pre-colored by the silkworm pupae itself.  By adding color to the silkworms mono-diet of mulberry leaves, the silkworms themselves turned a different hue and passed that color on to their silk enwrapments.   They hope that the system can be easily scaled up to industrial levels, and that it will help to reduce the (frankly terrifying) water-hungry fiber dying pollution and expense that currently exists.

Silkworms (Bombyx Mori) are facinating, and apparently aren’t that difficult to keep as pets, so long as you don’t mind a 35 to 50 day grub duration, and you have a powerful supply of their food source.  It’s a simple enough matter to buy silkworm eggs, and all they need is fresh, untainted air, room temperature conditions, and their mono-diet of mulberry leaves.  It is incredibly tempting to have a go at raising some silkworms of my own.  Imagine – sericulture – the raising of silkworms for silk, is apparently at least 2000 years old (and may be up to 7000 years), according to archeological records!

While I have no idea what sort of coloring the boffins at the IMRE in Singapore mixed with their silkworm feed, the potential for multicolored silk cocoons is there, and fascinating.

Even if all I end up with is a few plain natural color silk pods – they’re still silk, the wonder material, the beloved fiber of the East and one of the wonders of the natural (although artificially selected for) world.

Seen over at Craft:Blog.