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# "Spider Silk Delivers Finest Optical Fibres"
New Scientist (03/19/03); Penman, Danny

A team of engineers at the University of California at Riverside are using 
spider silk to make finer optical fibers that could be used to carry light 
in nanoscale optical circuits. The fibers are made by first coating the 
thread with tetraethyl orthosilicate, then burning it away it by baking, 
leaving behind a hollow silica tube 1 micrometer in diameter. The silk they 
use is from the giant orb-weaving spider of Madagascar, Nephila 
madagascariensis. The engineers are planning to apply the process to the 
thinnest known spider silk, which is produced by Stegodyphus pacificus and 
has a 10-nm diameter, which should yield a conduit about 2 nm in diameter. 
Such a development would be a major breakthrough in the field of photonics, 
while Bath University physicist Philip Russell thinks that the method will 
help in the construction of minute sensors that harness the unique 
"supramolecular" chemistry that takes place between substances enclosed in 
small spaces. Other potential applications include ramping up the 
resolution of optical microscopes, which Heriot-Watt University chemist 
Christopher Viney predicts "will open up whole new vistas for biologists." 
The USC-Riverside engineers' method will be detailed in an upcoming issue 
of the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Graham Klyne
PGP: 0FAA 69FF C083 000B A2E9  A131 01B9 1C7A DBCA CB5E

Received on Monday, 7 April 2003 12:40:28 UTC