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Rearing of silkworm on mulberry tree, a new industrial revolution in Azad Kashmir

The rearing of silkworms on mulberry trees for the production of raw silk is known as sericulture. The cultivation and production of silk at industrial levels can prove to be new dawn for traditional and historic silk industry of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Sericulture involves various stages including planting mulberry trees, rearing of silkworm on mulberry trees, collection of cocoons and their delivery for reeling purpose, reeling of raw silk from the cocoons and further uses in various industries.

image of a white mulberry on a mulberry-tree branch. Organic cultivation of white mulberry

What are the conventional and unconventional uses of silk?

Silk has been and continue to be a part and parcel of luxury dressmaking, fashion industry and sophisticated drapery all over the world. Thanks to the technological advancement in industrial nations, silk is now being increasingly used in production and making of optical, medical and micro level engineering devices. Apart from traditional usage of silk in cloth making and associated fields, there are vast opportunities in telecomm engineering and associated industries where silk-based products can offer new opportunities of innovation, technological advancement and entrepreneurship. The scientific research has proved that silk-based devices are sustainably viable, optically versatile and friendly to biodiversity.

What makes the silkworm a unique creature?

This is the only insect that produces silk. It takes at least 2 days for a silkworm to complete its cocoon which makes the basis of silk. One silkworm cocoon is made of a single, unbroken thread about 914 meters long.  Silkworms are no longer found in the wild and increasingly reared through sericulture practices and mulberry tree farming. Silkworm moths lay about 300 to 500 eggs. Interesting the silk is a very good insulator.

Why is silkworm popular in silk production?

The Silkworm is the caterpillar of a moth whose cocoon is used to make silk. The insect is also called the silkworm-moth and the mulberry silkworm. The silkworm’s cocoon produces a single, continuous thread known as silk.

How silkworm produces silk?

The silkworm (caterpillar) eats mulberry leaves which provide food for the production of a silk-like material which is an essential ingredient of silk. The large silk glands of the insect contain protein, water and salt which contribute in making of silky fiber.

How fiber is used in optical devices?

The fiber produced by silkworm is ideal of making silky clothes but not an ideal for using it in optical devices in its raw shape. It , however, can be an ideal source of essential material for optical engineering based devices. The fiber produced by silkworm goes through various reverse engineering processes to make it ideal of optical use. Silkworm produces fiber which is mechanically strong and tough. Interestingly, the fiber is non-resistant to light.These properties make it a suitable material for a wide range of optical devices.

What other properties silk possesses?

Silk has the optical, mechanical and biological properties necessary to excel in this role. One example is the use of implantable silk mirrors to increase the signal of optical imaging methods. 

What are the potential uses of silk-based fiber?

Next generation storage devices could be implanted into your body. Scientists from China are studying a way to build silk protein-based rewritable optical storage devices that could be implanted into a human body. Unlike flash memory and optical discs, silk-protein storage devices could be implanted into a human being without harm and can survive heat, high humidity, gamma radiation, and high magnetic fields.  Silk protein is a medium that has never been used in storage, which traditionally uses a semiconductor, New sturdy-hybrid species of silkworm need to be developed which can withstand the adverse climatic conditions. Such species of worms enhance the quantity and quality of raw silk.

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