The Loh Down On Science

Fishy Fashion

Nylon, polyester, hagfish slime?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and what may be the
fabric of the future!

See, many of today's synthetic fabrics are made of petroleum. But it's expensive and in limited supply. So scientists are searching for alternative raw materials for durable new cloth.

Enter a most unlikely source: the hagfish. It's an eel-like bottom feeder about eighteen inches long. When threatened, it excretes several quarts of yucky slime in seconds! Ew!

Canadian scientists recently broke the slime down to its proteins. They found that, like spider silk, hagfish goo is made of tens of thousands of microscopic strands. Turns out, once in solution, the strands can be pulled out and drawn into thread.

Thus, hagfish slime could be an effective and cost-efficient way to create synthetics without petroleum. But since the process involves only the proteins from the slime, the fabric itself won't be slimy.

Although, you never know, Lady Gaga might prefer that look.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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