Melbourne, September 10 (ANI): A new research has found that Australian lacewings build tougher silk than silkworms.
Scientists at CSIRO Entomology have learnt that silk made by the common Australian green lacewing can be stretched up to six times further than silkworm silk.
Moreover, its unusual structure makes it potentially much easier to manufacture artificially.
The common Australian green lacewing (Mallada signata) produces silk to create tiny stiff stalks to hold each of its eggs on.
The insect pushes out a liquid drop of silk dope before stretching it out to the point at which it stiffens and then placing the egg safely on top.
Researchers found that the lacewing silk was different from the silk created by other insects and had had its own evolutionary pathway.
Unlike the plank-like structure of other silks from spiders or silkworms, lacewing silk contains two fibrous proteins structured like a concertina door, giving it extra toughness and elasticity.
According to Dr Tara Sutherland, who was part research team, the lacewing silk protein is also shorter and less repetitive, making it easier to reproduce artificially by fermentation in bacteria.
"Silks are made under benign conditions. They're made at room temperature, from an aqueous system and from readily replaced building blocks, so it's a very environmentally friendly process, in contrast to the synthetic equivalents," ABC Science quoted Sutherland as saying.
She added: "The material has a lot of strength and it's very, very light so it's quite remarkable. It's also very tough."
Apart from the traditional textile uses, the biocompatibility of the natural fibre allows this kind of silk to be used in high-tech medical applications such as providing the scaffolding for growing new human cells on.
The research will be published in the Journal of Structural Biology. (ANI)