Delicate threads of spider’s silk are about to solve a major problem in photonics: how to make hollow optical fibres narrow enough to carry light beams around the fastest nanoscale optical circuits.

To make the fibres, Yushan Yan and a team of engineers from the University of California at Riverside give the silk thread a glassy coating, and then extract the silk by baking. They soon expect to be able to make hollow fibres with cores just two nanometres wide – or 50,000 times thinner than a human hair.

In addition to photonics, the spider silk-based fibres could also be used to boost the resolution of optical microscopes.
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