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Brief Published: 11 Oct 2013

Artificial Bee Silk


Biosynthetic honey bee silk has been named as one of the top innovations from the 2013 edition of the Launch challenge – a global initiative that aims to find sustainable solutions to world problems.

Led by Australian biotechnologist Tara Sutherland, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) discovered that honey bee silk has a molecular structure that can be replicated using a mass production process that minimises negative environmental impact.

Unlike other silk proteins, honey bee silk consists of multiple helices (tight coils) wrapped around multiple helices. The result is a flexible, ultra-strong thread.

Biosynthetic honey bee silk, which can be knitted and woven, has a range of potential applications across the aerospace and health industries, including in regenerative medicine.

Growing numbers of scientists and designers are drawing inspiration from insects. See the Stylus report Insects in Design for more examples of insect-inspired product designs and fabrics.