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Biomacromolecules. 2011 Jun 13;12(6):2257-66. doi: 10.1021/bm2003362. Epub 2011 May 25.

Demineralization enables reeling of wild silkmoth cocoons.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK.


Wild Silkmoth cocoons are difficult or impossible to reel under conditions that work well for cocoons of the Mulberry silkmoth, Bombyx mori . Here we report evidence that this is caused by mineral reinforcement of Wild Silkmoth cocoons and that washing these minerals out allows for the reeling of commercial lengths of good quality fibers with implications for the development of the "Wild Silk" industry. We show that in the Lasiocampid silkmoth Gonometa postica , the mineral is whewellite (calcium oxalate monohydrate). Evidence is presented that its selective removal by ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) leaves the gum substantially intact, preventing collapse and entanglement of the network of fibroin brins, enabling wet reeling. Therefore, this method clearly differs from the standard "degumming" and should be referred to as "demineralizing". Mechanical testing shows that such preparation results in reeled silks with markedly improved breaking load and extension to break by avoiding the damage produced by the rather harsh degumming, carding, or dry reeling methods currently in use, what may be important for the development of the silk industries not only in Asia but also in Africa and South America.

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