We’ve written quite a bit about the new and exciting things scientists have been doing with silkworms and silk, and we’ve got another fun new innovation to add to the list. Scientists in Japan have started breeding silkworms to produce silks that glow under UV lights.
Scientists did this by inserting DNA sequences found in different glowing organisms (in this case, two types of coral and one jellyfish) into the silkworms’ genome. The resulting silkworms are what are known as transgenic organisms. When the silkworms spun their cocoons, they produced silk that appears light red, orange, and green under white light and then glows brightly in the same colors when placed under UV lights.
According to the scientists involved, the silk produced is only slightly weaker than traditional silk and will continue to glow for at least two years. Because the silk requires different processing than other silks, it is slightly more expensive than non-glowing silks, but not much more.
While scientists are trying to figure out ways to use the silk for medical and other practical purposes, fashion designers are already creating fun garments, including some wedding dresses by designer Yumi Katsura. Unfortunately, so far as we can tell the silks aren't publicly available to weavers or other fiber enthusiasts yet, although we personally think these scientists should team up with the researchers at MIT’s Media Lab to create a glowing silk pavilion!