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Fiber

Although cobwebs may seem very fragile when we see people like Indiana Jones crashing through them, the fact is that spider silk is an incredibly strong and flexible material. It has a tensile strength similar to that of high-grade steel while only being one-fifth as dense, it can stretch up to 1.4 times its relaxed length without breaking, and it can maintain those properties down to a temperature of -40C (-40F). Given that spiders don't secrete huge quantities of the stuff on a daily basis, however, what's a biotech firm to do if it wishes to harvest the fibers for use in human technology? In the case of Sigma Life Science, it's getting genetically-modified silkworms to spin spider silk. Read More
Cotton has held an important significance for mankind for thousands of years. Not only are all parts of the cotton plant economically useful, but the multitude of uses and processes it can be put to make it America's number one value-added crop. Over the years we have crushed and extruded and woven cotton into many forms, but even today scientists and entrepreneurs are transforming the way we use cotton; from reducing pollution, insulating homes, and cleaning up oil spills to feeding the hungry. Here's a look at seven new companies being championed for their sustainability by Cotton Incorporated. Read More
In an age where many oil fields are in terminal decline and our dependence on petroleum reaches critical proportions, it is simply crazy that with every Styrofoam-packaged item consumers purchase, one cubed foot of Styrofoam representing 1.5 liters of petrol is thrown away. Moreover, in the U.S., Styrofoam is said to take up 25 percent of the space in landfills. A much better-sounding alternative is to use naturally-produced EcoCradle. It's created from useless agricultural by-products and mushroom roots, has all the same properties as other expandable polystyrenes (EPS), and is fully compostable. Read More
Japanese manufacturer Teijin, in cooperation with firefighting apparel maker Akao Co. Ltd., has announced the development of new firefighting suit that reportedly sets new world standards in both protection from extreme heat and lightweight wearability. Made from TRIPROTECH aramid fibers, Teijin's new suit consists of multiple key layers with even more clever monikers to boot, like GBARRIERLIGHT, TECHWAVE, and TECHNORA. The technical details of the layers' composition are somewhat hairy, but the upshot is that Teijin's improved aramid fibers have resulted in a firefighting suit that weights only 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) and is 60 percent more effective in preventing burns than the company's prior lightweight suits. Read More
In a collaborative study on sustainable building materials, researchers from Spain’s University of Seville and Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde have created bricks that contain sheep’s wool and a polymer derived from seaweed. Clay-based soils were provided by Scottish brick manufacturers, while the wool came from Scotland's textile industry, which produces more of the stuff than it can use. The polymer was an alginate, which occurs naturally in the cell walls of seaweed. Mixed together, the three substances resulted in bricks that were reportedly 37 percent stronger than regular unfired bricks. Read More
We all know of optical fibers, the filaments of glass that carry data in the form of light pulses and enable the high-speed global telecommunications networks we take for granted today. For the past decade, Yoel Fink has been working at MIT to develop fibers with ever more sophisticated properties which enable fabrics to interact with their environment. Fink and his collaborators have now announced a new milestone on the path to functional fibers – fibers that can detect and produce sound. Read More
Not satisfied with your Kevlar body armor? Well, you may be in luck. American researchers have used lasers to create the world’s first practical macroscopic yarns from boron nitride fibers. The development could unlock the potential of the material for a wide variety of applications, including radiation-shielding for spacecraft, solar energy collection, and stronger body armor. If the supplied photo is anything to go by, it also does a great job at holding up a quarter. Read More
Deep-sea research is great and everything, but man, those submersibles can get pretty cramped. The other, bigger problem is that it requires going off and traveling on a ship, which is costly and can therefore only be done a few times a year. Fortunately, however, there’s now a way of obtaining real-time undersea data without leaving your office. NEPTUNE Canada, the world’s largest and most advanced cabled seafloor observatory, officially started going live to the Internet last December, giving anyone with an Internet connection free access to what will become an absolute mountain of data from the bottom of the sea. Read More
Already regarded as a “wonder fabric” for its lightness, softness, warmth even when wet, and other qualities, scientists from China say they have been able to improve on the natural properties of wool. They say their discovery could give wool a “brain,” placing it among other “smart” fabrics that shake off wrinkles, shrinkage and “breathe” to release perspiration. Read More
Scientists at the University of Adelaide, Australia, have put the squeeze on light. By discovering that light within optical fibers can be squeezed into much tighter spaces than was previously believed possible, the researchers at the University's Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) have claimed a breakthrough that could change the world's thinking on light’s capabilities, especially when it comes to its use in telecommunications, such as fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), computing and other light sources. Read More
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