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ACS Omega






ACS Publications

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Silkworm silk has become increasingly relevant for material applications. However, the industry as a whole is retracting because of problems with mass production. One of the key problems is the inconsistent properties of the silk. A means by which to improve the silk material properties is through enhanced sericulture techniques. One possible technique is altering the feed of the silkworms to include single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) or graphene (GR). Recently published results have demonstrated substantial improvement in fiber mechanical properties. However, the effect of the surfactant used to incorporate those materials into the feed on the fiber mechanical properties in comparison to normal silkworm silk has not been studied or reported. Thus, the total effect of feeding the SWNT and GR in the presence of surfactants on silkworms is not understood. Our study focuses on the surfactant [calcium lignosulfonate (LGS)] and demonstrates that it alone results in appreciable improvement of mechanical properties in comparison to nontreated silkworm silk. Furthermore, our study demonstrates that mixing the LGS, SWNT, and GR directly into the artificial diet of silkworms yields improved mechanical properties without decline below the control silk at high doses of SWNT or GR. Combined, we present evidence that mixing surfactants, in this case LGS, directly with the diet of silkworms creates a high-quality fiber product that can exceed 1 GPa in tensile strength. With the addition of nanocarbons, either SWNT or GR, the improvement is even greater and consistently surpasses control fibers. However, feeding LGS alone is a more economical and practical choice to consistently improve the mechanical properties of silkworm fiber.

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