Here at Bambu Batu, we have a great appreciation for natural fibers. Yet, there are some textiles that it can be a little hard to wrap our heads around. Case in point: hagfish slime. Yes, scientists have been working on developing thread from the defensive mucous of the eel-like marine animal. It turns out that the goo is affordable, abundant, and rivals spider silk in strength. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada were the first to take a good long look at a substance that most people do their best to avoid.
The slime contains a number of proteins that are 100 times thinner than a human hair. After isolating the threads, the scientists found that they were 10 times stronger than nylon. The team will not have to only rely on harvesting the substance from hagfish as they can engineer bacteria to synthesize the proteins. Efforts to make spider silk this way have met challenges as the proteins are larger and difficult for the bacteria to create. Goats had been modified to produce the proteins in their milk, but using mammals greatly increases the cost of the material.
One of the advantages to the slime lies in the fact that it can become a durable, organic alternative to petroleum-based cloths like polyester or Kevlar. And, if you really think about it, could wearing sea snot be all that much grosser than sporting silk? Would you wear a suit of slime?
Do you have an insatiable appetite for science? Take a look at some of our other penetrating articles.