Innovative biofibers made from a silk protein of the green lacewing are being developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in conjunction with the company AMSilk GmbH. Researchers are working on producing the protein in large quantities by using biotechnology. The aim is to use the material in the future as a high-grade rigid fiber, for example, in lightweight plastics in transportation technology. It can also be conceivably used in medical technology, for example, as a biocompatible silk coating on implants
In order to protect their offspring from being eaten by predators near the ground, green lacewings deposit their eggs on the underside of leaves – on the ends of stable silk threads. These so-called egg stalks are only around 15 micrometers thick and can easily hold the weight of the eggs.
In order to produce these impressive fibers, the green lacewing excretes a protein secretion onto the leaf. The egg is then laid in the droplet and perpendicularly pulled out from the leaf. The resulting silk thread then hardens in the air.
»Unlike most other types of silk, the green lacewing’s egg stalk has a special structure with fascinating mechanical properties: green lacewing silk is extremely rigid and stable. We would like to transfer these special properties to fibers made from this silk. However, until now it has not been possible to produce this type of silk protein in sufficient quantities and purities, « explains Martin Schmidt, biotechnologist at the Fraunhofer IAP in Potsdam-Golm.
Full story in German at innovations-report.de
Full story in English at innovations-report.com