Future Silk

[Image: Neri Oxman’s otherwise unrelated “Silk Pavilion” at MIT; photo by Steven Keating via Wired].

Research published last month in the journal Nano Letters suggests that silkworms fed a steady diet of carbon nanotubes can produce structurally stronger silk:

Silkworm silk is gaining significant attention from both the textile industry and research society because of its outstanding mechanical properties and lustrous appearance. The possibility of creating tougher silks attracts particular research interest. Carbon nanotubes and graphene are widely studied for their use as reinforcement. In this work, we report mechanically enhanced silk directly collected by feeding Bombyx mori larval silkworms with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and graphene. We found that parts of the fed carbon nanomaterials were incorporated into the as-spun silk fibers, whereas the others went into the excrement of silkworms.

Using animals as living 3D printers is thus more of a reality every year.

It’s also worth noting here that the resulting super-silk exhibited “enhanced electrical conductivity,” implying some strange new world in which conductive textiles and other flexible, wearable electronic circuitry could be woven in space by augmented silkworms.

(Spotted by Benjamin Bratton).

A Well-Tailored Landscape

[Image: Sewn geology; photo by Matthew Cox of Kit Up!].

Earlier this summer, packaging and apparel manufacturing firm ReadyOne Industries debuted a new line of products: “moldable camouflage kits that can be customized to mimic virtually any type of rock formation or similar type of terrain.”

The sewn geological forms seen here—in photos taken by Matthew Cox of Kit Up!—use a multi-spectral concealment system called “VATEC,” further described by ReadyOne as a “Portable Battlefield Cryptic Signature and Concealment” system.

In the process, they give the word “geotextile” a new level of literality.

[Image: Lifting up fake rocks; photo by Matthew Cox of Kit Up!].

While you can read a tiny bit more about the product over at both Kit Up! and ReadyOne, what interests me here is the sheer surreality of portable artificial geology made by a garment manufacturing firm, or pieces of clothing blown up to the scale of landscape.

The unexpected implication is that those rocks you see all around you might not only be fake—they might also be pieces of clothing: camouflage garments that already mimicked natural forms simply taken to their obvious end point in the form of pop-up rocks and well-tailored geology.