Fluorescent silk: Quantum dots make silkworms glow in the dark

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Nanometre-sized semiconductors extracted from mulberry leaves make silkworms and their silk emit a strong red glow



Technology



4 March 2022

New Scientist Default Image

A silkworm fluorescing under green light

Huan-Ming Xiong

Silkworms that eat nanometre-sized particles called quantum dots produce fluorescent silk.

Researchers have previously used gene editing to make fluorescent silkworms, but these methods can be costly and introduce random genetic mutations that are harmful to the worms.

Instead, Huan-Ming Xiong at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his colleagues extracted carbon quantum dots, nanometre-sized semiconductors that emit specific wavelengths of light, from mulberry leaves and fed them to the silkworms.

Xiong and his team tested dozens of different carbon dots on the silkworms to …

Article amended on 7 March 2022

We have corrected how the fluorescence was described.

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