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Shrilk Me

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December 13, 2011 – Comments (12)

This is really cool stuff

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http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-shrilk-insect-cuticle-low-cost-material.html

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have developed a new material that replicates the exceptional strength, toughness, and versatility of one of nature's more extraordinary substances—insect cuticle. Also low-cost, biodegradable, and biocompatible, the new material, called "Shrilk," could one day replace plastics in consumer products and be used safely in a variety of medical applications.

The research findings appear in the December 13 online edition of Advanced Materials. The work was conducted by Wyss Institute postdoctoral fellow, Javier G. Fernandez, Ph.D., with Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. Ingber is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston and is a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Natural insect cuticle, such as that found in the rigid exoskeleton of a housefly or grasshopper, is uniquely suited to the challenge of providing protection without adding weight or bulk. As such, it can deflect external chemical and physical strains without damaging the insect's internal components, while providing structure for the insect's muscles and wings. It is so light that it doesn't inhibit flight and so thin that it allows flexibility. Also remarkable is its ability to vary its properties, from rigid along the insect's body segments and wings to elastic along its limb joints.

Insect cuticle is a composite material consisting of layers of chitin, a polysaccharide polymer, and protein organized in a laminar, plywood-like structure. Mechanical and chemical interactions between these materials provide the cuticle with its unique mechanical and chemical properties. By studying these complex interactions and recreating this unique chemistry and laminar design in the lab, Fernandez and Ingber were able to engineer a thin, clear film that has the same composition and structure as insect cuticle. The material is called Shrilk because it is composed of fibroin protein from silk and from chitin, which is commonly extracted from discarded shrimp shells.

Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. It is biodegradable and can be produced at a very lost cost, since chitin is readily available as a shrimp waste product. It is also easily molded into complex shapes, such as tubes. By controlling the water content in the fabrication process, the researchers were even able to reproduce the wide variations in stiffness, from elasticity to rigidity.

These attributes could have multiple applications. As a cheap, environmentally safe alternative to plastic, Shrilk could be used to make trash bags, packaging, and diapers that degrade quickly. As an exceptionally strong, biocompatible material, it could be used to suture wounds that bear high loads, such as in hernia repair, or as a scaffold for tissue regeneration.

12 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On December 13, 2011 at 1:52 PM, Teacherman1 (43.04) wrote:

So when do they form a company to license it or manufacture it?

Just kidding. I realize it is a bit too early for that, but thanks for posting.

I will need to file that away to see if anyone does decide to "go" with it.

Talk about "green". With the current push to "do away" with plastic bags, this should be of real interest.

It seems more and more universities are making fairly quick transfers of new discoveries that have commercial applications. Hopefully they can too.

Again, thanks for the post.

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#2) On December 13, 2011 at 2:25 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

Teacherman1,

No problem and agreed. This is a very cool development and I am also very interested in research studies that have very tangible and useful immediate benefits.

>>It seems more and more universities are making fairly quick transfers of new discoveries that have commercial applications. Hopefully they can too.

Indeed!..

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#3) On December 13, 2011 at 4:07 PM, mhy729 (29.82) wrote:

Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminum alloy, but it is only half the weight. It is biodegradable and can be produced at a very lost cost, since chitin is readily available as a shrimp waste product. It is also easily molded into complex shapes, such as tubes. By controlling the water content in the fabrication process, the researchers were even able to reproduce the wide variations in stiffness, from elasticity to rigidity.

Guess that "shrimp waste" isn't waste after all!  I love this stuff...cheers for science!

I wonder if this will lead to more "organic" techs for humanity's future, as opposed to the heavily metallic/plastic ones we have at the moment.  Reminds me of some of the depictions in science fiction, although for the most part the "organic" techs are usually being used by the "evil" less-savory types of fictional aliens.

I know some here poo-poo the blogging of non-investment topics, but I for one really enjoy these.  Thanks for posting!

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#4) On December 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

mhy729,

>>Guess that "shrimp waste" isn't waste after all!

Exactly. One organisms waste is another organisms treasure. At least dogs think that when they eat cat poop :)

>>I know some here poo-poo the blogging of non-investment topics, but I for one really enjoy these.  Thanks for posting!

Absolutely! And while these may not be immediately investement related, since advancements like these will be investable some day. So it is quasi-investment related :)..

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#5) On December 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM, 4everlost (29.45) wrote:

The demand for shrimp is going to skyrocket!  How can I capitialize on it???

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#6) On December 14, 2011 at 11:50 AM, EnigmaDude (82.91) wrote:

interesting.  Thanks for sharing!

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#7) On December 14, 2011 at 12:05 PM, kdakota630 (29.64) wrote:

Agreed.  That was pretty cool.

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#8) On December 14, 2011 at 12:26 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

4everlost ,

>>The demand for shrimp is going to skyrocket!  How can I capitialize on it???

Shrimp-(backward)R-us ? :)

EnigmaDude,

No problem!

kdakota630,

Thanks man, yeah, I love cool science tidbits like these :).

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#9) On December 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM, kdakota630 (29.64) wrote:

binve

Maybe you'll like this.  I saw it on TV years ago and just found it again, and with talk about shrimp I thought it relevant.

 

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#10) On December 14, 2011 at 12:34 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

kdakota630 ,

Cool stuff!

The snap can also produce sonoluminescence from the collapsing bubble. This will produce a very small amount of light and high temperatures in the range of several thousand kelvins within the collapsing bubble,

Man I love physics :)..

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#11) On December 14, 2011 at 4:41 PM, leohaas (31.35) wrote:

"I know some here poo-poo the blogging of non-investment topics, but I for one really enjoy these. "

OK, here I go: Poo Poo!

But thanks for posting this anyway.  This one I enjoyed as well.

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#12) On December 14, 2011 at 5:20 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:

leohaas,

>>OK, here I go: Poo Poo!

:). Thanks man!..

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