Unravelling wild silks
There are more than 4000 species of silk moth in the world yet only a handful of these are exploited for commercial silk production. The reason for this is that although the cocoons of domesticated mulberry silkworms are easy to unravel, those of non-domesticated species (known as Wild Silkworms) are definitely not. This should no longer be a problem as Oxford Biomaterials Ltd. (OBM) has discovered a novel way of unravelling Wild Silkworm cocoons. This is likely to work for practically all the 4,000 plus species which together are found in all continents except Antarctica.
Our discovery potentially provides a huge range of new silk-based materials with greatly improved and more consistent mechanical properties, for a wide range of new applications.
OBM offers a research and consultancy service on novel production techniques for new and already commercialised wild silks.
Silk has been manufactured with traditional, low-tech methods for thousands of years. It offers a compelling alternative to synthetic polymers, as the energy input required to spin the fibre can be a thousand times lower. Finding substitutes to fossil fuel based textiles is now recognised to be an important goal with global oil supplies facing an uncertain future and compelling reasons to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These concerns are reflected in fast growing consumer demand for ‘green’ products that have a low environmental impact over their life cycle. OBM offers unique consultancy services in silk related Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as well as value chain and SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analyses.
The impacts of mulberry silk are highly dependent on how it is produced, and best practices need to be implemented to ensure sustainability. LCA measures relevant indicators such as energy requirements and carbon and water footprints, offering insights on hotspots in environmental impact and resource use. Our comprehensive LCA-SWOT and associated services allow both private firms and publicly funded sericulture projects to achieve high returns, while minimising input- and environmental costs.
Providing vital ecosystem services such as climate and water regulation, current forest land is under tremendous pressure in many lower income countries. With our proprietary technology for reeling wild silks, we can offer project design with tremendous incentive for maintaining existing woodland and increasing forest cover to supply wild silk cocoons. Reeling allows economically viable silk production from a variety of new silkmoths, providing income diversification and improving livelihoods while contributing to the maintenance of resilient agro-forestry systems and providing incentives to increase forest cover on marginal or degraded land.