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Making Biodegradable Computer Chips Out of Spider Silk

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the weave-and-play dept.

Biotech 55

An anonymous reader writes in a story about a neat potential use for spider silk. "Many people have heard that spider silk is a sort of supermaterial: stronger than steel, tougher than Kevlar, and yet incredibly malleable and flexible. But the silk has other properties that make it ideal for use in electronic devices. Light can travel through a silk strand as easily as it does through a fiber optic cable. 'When we first tested spider silk, we didn’t know what to expect,' said physicist Nolwenn Huby of the Institut de Physique de Rennes in France. 'We thought, "Why not try this as an optical fiber to propagate light?'" Huby and her team were able to transmit laser light down a short strand of the silk on an integrated circuit chip. The silk worked much like glass fiber optic cables, meaning it could carry information for electronic devices, though it had about four orders of magnitude more loss than the glass. Huby said that with a coating and further development, the silk could one day have better transmission capabilities. She will present her results at this year’s Frontiers in Optics conference, Oct. 14 to 18 in Rochester, New York.

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Self consistency optional. (5, Insightful)

Kincaidia (927521) | about 2 years ago | (#41656249)

"Light can travel through a silk strand as easily as it does through a fiber optic cable. ..... it had about four orders of magnitude more loss than the glass." It couldn't even be self-consistent in the SUMMARY? *sigh* Someone's going to have a bad case of the Mondays.

Re:Self consistency optional. (0)

Zandamesh (1689334) | about 2 years ago | (#41656283)

Correlation does not imply causation.

Just because light travels easily trough silk does not mean that there are not properties of silk that can influence data loss.

Re:Self consistency optional. (1)

Zandamesh (1689334) | about 2 years ago | (#41656289)

not *other properties

Re:Self consistency optional. (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41657905)

The phrase "correlation does not imply causation" is usually a fairly good indicator that the person who said it doesn't understand correlation OR causation. In your case it doesn't even start to make sense.

If light travels through spider silk with four orders of magnitude more loss than through glass then light travels through spider silk 10,000 times more poorly than through glass fibre. That is, it doesn't travel through silk nearly as easily as through glass. Nobody said anything about data loss.

Re:Self consistency optional. (3, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41656319)

Oh, I don't know. In lots of industries "within four orders of magnitude" is the same thing as "equal". Economists and US senators, for example.

Re:Self consistency optional. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656625)

And some electronic circuits. The point is that the silk can carry a signal, it's not perfect. However, the loss can be amplified. Optical transistors do exist now and a simple Darlington pair should be enough amplify it. On top of that spider silk is much less expensive. The whole point of this article is to tell the world that optical processors may be closer and cheaper than previously thought.

Re:Self consistency optional. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656883)

4 orders of magnitude lower is -80dB as each order of magnitude is 20dB. It is like your DSL signal strength at 5+km away vs having one at the front lawn.

It is like the salary of the ordinary worker vs the salary of the CEO and we are not even talking about stock compensations. We all know how that works out.

Re:Self consistency optional. (3, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41656915)

Why do you hate America? If we paid CEOs even more money, they'd create even more jobs.

Re:Self consistency optional. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656331)

Whats its Single-mode multi-mode Cutoff wavelength? Whats its dispersion? How well does it fare on OTDR's (standard and polarized wavelengths)? How Geometric is it?

Sounds to me like the "magic dust" they talked about years ago for hard drives to increase capacity. Ill believe it when it see it.

Re:Self consistency optional. (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41656353)

"Light can travel through a silk strand as easily as it does through a fiber optic cable. ..... it had about four orders of magnitude more loss than the glass."

It couldn't even be self-consistent in the SUMMARY? *sigh*

OK 40 dB or so.

Check out a graph of "fiber optic cable" (as if there is only one kind LOL noobs).

The difference in dB/KM at blue light and at the IR minimum in generic common glass fiber is darn near 30 dB or so.

These are journalists, they probably don't even know the difference much less know the spectral characteristics of the spider silk. I would be kinda surprised if its got the exact same shapes in the graphs as glass fiber. Heck its only 40 dB to overcome, thats not much, there's probably some weird corner of the spectrum where silk beats glass... maybe ultra deep IR or in UV or something.

Its kinda like "the" loss in a coaxial cable... whadda talking about, LMR-1700 or RG-174?

A hilarious /. car analogy would be talking about car engine power as if all car engines are exactly the same power output.

Re:Self consistency optional. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656853)

Consistency is one thing. Other thing is that means this is not news at all...

"Buy this new product, it's only 10,000 times worse than the old product!!1"

Re:Self consistency optional. (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#41657615)

My bicycle is about two orders of magnitude slower than a Bugatti Veyron, but with an aerodynamic coating and further development, it could one day be faster!

Hype masquerading as news (4, Insightful)

concealment (2447304) | about 2 years ago | (#41656255)

It's a neat thought-experiment, but like many things that get touted in the media, more hype than reality.

This won't be easily manufactured on a large scale. It will not be as fast as fiber optics or electricity. It will degrade during use.

Fix those, then let us know...

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 2 years ago | (#41656273)

Well, it could lead to us getting a better understanding of the chemical nature of spider silk, and artificially creating it. It wouldn't be the first interesting natural thing we've found and decided artificial creation for larger scale output, and more consistent product quality, was a good idea.

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41656309)

there's already demand/need for artificial production of spiders silk.

this thought experiment/idea is on the level of "hey it's translucent!" - without coming up with any idea how to make it more practical in any use.

and glass for the optical fibers isn't that bad. being more flexible doesn't help much either since you still need to avoid kinks.

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | about 2 years ago | (#41656691)

there's already demand/need for artificial production of spiders silk.

It's already being made from GMO goats' milk. The spinnerets are similar to those used for making Spectra UHDPE fibre.

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

coofercat (719737) | about 2 years ago | (#41656367)

It already is manufactured on a greater scale than trying to farm spiders: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16554357 [bbc.co.uk] (warning: potential goat pr0n)

How it'll really pan out in electronics for fibre optics remains to be seen though ;-)

Re:Hype masquerading as news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656417)

This is kind of like getting a T1 link to run over barbed wire [youtube.com] .

Re:Hype masquerading as news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656913)

On top of that almost ALL of a computer is recyclable. So lets replace it with something you can not reuse. Glass is pretty cool for fiber optic. Melt it down and poof ... still have glass. Melt spider silk down and poof .... hmm.

Other than studying how to make the stuff in mass quantities (for which it has many other uses). Not quite sure how this is 'computer' worthy.

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41658137)

It will degrade during use.

A more perfect method of destroying evidence you'll never find. Like stabbing somebody with an icicle.

This tape will self destruct in five seconds

Re:Hype masquerading as news (1)

BeanThere (28381) | about 2 years ago | (#41662501)

This won't be easily manufactured on a large scale. It will not be as fast as fiber optics or electricity. It will degrade during use.

Lol, you didn't even read the article did you? One of the features is that could "degrade during use" because one of their envisioned applications is using it for communications for medical devices and/or medical imaging within the body (as e.g. it's far thinner than fiber and can be broken down and re-absorbed by the body). And for this application is doesn't need to be as fast.

Re:Hype masquerading as news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41666005)

We just need bigger, stronger spiders, to make bigger, stronger cables.

Worst article summary ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656257)

"Light can travel through a silk strand as easily as it does through a fiber optic cable.. ..the silk worked much like glass fiber optic cables [...] though it had about four orders of magnitude more loss than the glass."

What the actual effin' Christ.

Re:Worst article summary ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656265)

"the silk could one day have better transmission capabilities"

better than the current silk? better than glass fiber?

World Wide Web (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656271)

There I said it first!

Chips made of spider silk? (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 2 years ago | (#41656277)

They're gonna find a few bugs in these.

***drum roll*** (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656279)

Queue the Dyson sphere networks..

Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk? (1)

ravenlord_hun (2715033) | about 2 years ago | (#41656287)

I mean, a lot of industries would LOVE having spider silk in large quantities - it's a very durable material, and could be pretty useful in making bulletproof vests or strong-yet-light cables, if I recall correctly.

So even if it's theoretically correct - I kind of doubt it'll ever get better than glass, mind you - there'll be just another industry standing in line waiting for the artificial spider silk to start flowing...

Re:Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk (1)

gtvr (1702650) | about 2 years ago | (#41656299)

I'm picturing the poor spiders in massive dorms in China, being forced to spin silk 12-14 hours per day.

Re:Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk (2)

ravenlord_hun (2715033) | about 2 years ago | (#41656303)

Wait until they unionize...

Re:Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41656321)

they've been doing that for regular silk for centuries.

Re:Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656399)

And yet after all those centuries, they are not using spiders. Tells you something about the practicality of using spiders as a source of silk.

Re:Weren't they unable to mass produce spider silk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41661013)

I pity the poor fool who has to milk the spiders for 12-14 hours per day.

Ideal for electronic devices? (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#41656293)

Ideal for a small set of medically related electronic devices, it seems.

I don't think it's likely to replace glass for anything else.

Needs more buzz words (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 2 years ago | (#41656297)

Can you do it in the cloud?

Re:Needs more buzz words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656329)

No, just the world wide web.

The fine print... (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about 2 years ago | (#41656339)

Four orders of magnitude difference in attenuation... That's literally 10,000x.

In related news, I will be attending this same conference to deliver a talk regarding my findings that peanut butter can serve as windows, with similar differences in optical attenuation, with uncertainty of plus/minus spider silk.

Re:The fine print... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41663417)

Peanut butter windows are prone to jam.

why have silicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41656383)

when you can have silk - Buy are silk computers and help us defeat our terrorist adversaries, the spider people

Sincerely,

Brad Pitt

This is bad news (1)

Slithe (894946) | about 2 years ago | (#41656555)

They may be more 'biodegradable', but they certainly are not vegan.

Re:This is bad news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41657321)

Then don't eat them?

Biodegradeable?! What the Uppity Fuck? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41656899)

Does one, seriously, need to spin everything in green brouhaha these days? Biodegradable fiber optic, yeah sure, as if it made the tiniest shred of difference. For one, semiconductor industry produces quite a bit of waste water and waste solvents, all laced with pretty nasty, toxic stuff. For another, the semiconductor material itself, even when doped, is pretty much fucking sand. It doesn't fucking have to be biodegradable, because it non-degrading is not a fucking issue at all. We don't fucking need sand to biodegrade, you retards. Sigh.

It'd be worthwhile if they could, for example, make biodegradable chip packaging, that would be a revolution since by volume and by mass there's a couple times more packaging (encapsulant) than semiconductor material. Or, say, biodegradable chip substrates.

One also has to understand the real and oft ignored costs of making things biodegradable. There was, once upon a time, a snafu with biodegradable wiring insulation in automotive wiring harnesses. Some hullaballoo must have figured that hey, stripping wires is "hard work" and with war on drugs raging on they might run out of drug addicts and/or alcoholics who'd do this to support their habits (or kids in third world regions, perhaps). So instead they made things even more wasteful as said harnesses started failing left right and center, and people spent way more energy than was saved by any biodegradability to troubleshoot the damn things and fix them. It's almost like the switch to lead-free soldering: yeah, sure it will reduce the leached lead in badly managed (acid-phase) landfills, but the amounts seen in practice are so small anyway that they are not a big concern as far as I understand it. What is a concern, though, is reduced yields and longevity of consumer electronics, and resultant waste of energy.

Re:Biodegradeable?! What the Uppity Fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41657339)

Isn't it a little early to be that inebriated?

Re:Biodegradeable?! What the Uppity Fuck? (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 2 years ago | (#41659889)

5 o'clock somewhere.

For example, as I write this, it's just after 5pm in London.

Re:Biodegradeable?! What the Uppity Fuck? (1)

BeanThere (28381) | about 2 years ago | (#41662549)

RTFA - "Biodegradable fiber optic" does make "the tiniest shred of difference" when you're talking about microscopic medical communications devices within the body. Unless you think it makes no difference to just leave strands of ordinary glass fiber all over your internals?

Re:Biodegradeable?! What the Uppity Fuck? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41664743)

Or, so then tiny shards of passivated silicone will be better tolerated, then? And whatever electrode surfaces are exposed for those things to harvest power will obviously not be a problem either? No, this is not a false dichotomy. Sure everything has to be addressed, but let's perhaps not get overexcited by solving the smallest part of the problem by volume and surface area, by far.

Spider Goats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41657237)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16554357

Genetically modified goats give spider webs instead of milk from their udders.

Bad Idea (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#41658017)

I'm not at all interested in having my computer biodegrade. I want it to last. Too much waste and throw away in our society. Things should be built to last. I have cast iron cookware that is over a hundred years old and will last for maybe another thousand years.

Re:Bad Idea (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#41660149)

Your assumption is flawed.

There are lots of things built to last, for instance, most computers, phones, electronic devices will last a long time.

The problem is that society perceives electronics to become obsolete a year or two after purchase, and so they want to get rid of something that works perfectly well for something the works or looks slightly better.

So, having electronics that could eventually biodegrade is a good thing when the hipsters decide that the iPhone-nS released 6 months ago is not as good as iPhone-n+1 means there is less iPhone i[S] (n + 1) in the landfills.

These devices are built to last far longer then people will find them acceptable to use, and that is not going to change. However even saying that, nobody would ever want a 20 year old computer just because it is built out of cast iron.

By the way there is nothing wrong with waste and landfills either, they will become the greatest repository of fossil fuel and metal once we deplete the earth of its virgin resources.

And if broken... ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41658135)

Then: Would future technicians need spiders in their toolboxes, in order to fix broken data links.

One fly a day for the spider, and a check to the tech.

I'm launching my own bio chip start up (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#41658315)

I'm calling it Goblin Chips. The marketing battles among the skyscrapers of New York City will be EPIC!

Re:I'm launching my own bio chip start up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41662719)

Goblin chips already are biodegradeable, so I suppose you won't be needing to do much work to get that ball rolling.

This was news last week??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41659101)

Is slashdot ever up2date anymore? I read this last week on wired.....

Crawling the world wide web (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41659651)

Crawling the world wide web will make much more sense.

computer chip set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41667297)

http://www.trendsfair.com/computer-chips-can-take-use-of-spiders-silk/

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