Researchers have developed a new fabric, described as ‘air conditioned’, by copying the intricate patterns of silk produced from moth larvae. The fabric will be the basis of new, cooler clothing.
For centuries, fabrics formed from silkworm fibres have been created and treasured, with many going for high prices. Silk has the ability to absorb vivid colours and to produce garments that are relatively light and cool.
Taking this premise further, Columbia Engineering scientists have performed studies that show how fibres produced by the caterpillars of the Madagascar comet moth (Argema mittrei), are superior in terms of brilliance and cooling ability than silk produced from any other insect.
The male moth has a wingspan of 20 cm and a tail span of 15 cm, which make it one of the world’s largest silk moths. The female can lay between 120-170 eggs. The comet moth lives for just one week.
An examination of the comet moth’s cocoon fibres reveals very powerful cooling properties. In addition, the study has shown that the fibres have exceptional capabilities for transmitting various light signals and images. The fibres have nanoscale filamentary air voids that run along them. These trigger a strong specular (that is, mirror-like) reflection of light.
The research was undertaken by examining the optical properties of the silk down to the level of one-dimensional nanostructure fibres. Using the research, the scientists developed a method to create artificial fibres that copy the assembly of nanostructures and which have the same optical properties of natural fibres.