Silk for Photonics
Graphene is often called a wonder material, but it is not the first material worthy of such a title. Silk, that stuff spiders and silkworms make, has extraordinary properties and while it is naturally produced by so many species, it has proven difficult to replicate in the lab. Now, along with its strength, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, researchers are working to take advantage of its photonic qualities, as described by the Optical Society of America.
Many people are familiar with the fine glass structures collectively called fiber optics which channel light across great distances, but this material is not easy to make. Silk however is ready to use immediately after being produced by a spider and can be integrated into a chip to direct light as needed. Like other materials though, adding impurities to the silk introduces new properties. Researchers have used doped spider silk to produce a blue laser that is biodegradable and uses less power than a modern acrylic-based blue laser.
The researchers hope that this work they have done that demonstrates the photonic properties of silk will cause others to do find new uses for this material. After all, a wonder material that is not being used is not so wonderful.