Silk can keep fruit fresh without refrigeration

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th May 2016

StrawberriesSilk may have a second-use outside the textiles industry with scientists discovering it can persevere fruits.

Discovered by scientists from Tufts University in the US, the researchers found bananas and berries can stay fresh for more than a week if coated in an odourless, biocompatible silk solution. The solution is so thin it is barely visible to the human eye.

According to the scientists, the silk preserves the fruit as it contains fibroin, an insoluble protein which can protect objects, like fruit, whilst being entirely biodegradable.

Silk’s unique crystalline structure makes it one of nature’s toughest materials.

How the study worked

Scientists dipped freshly picked strawberries in a solution of one per cent silk fibroin protein and repeated this process up to four times. The berries were then treated with a water vapour to help strengthen the silk coating.

These berries were next left at room temperature alongside other berries not treated with the silk solution. At the end of the week, the berries treated with silk were still juicy and firm whilst the others were dehydrated and discoloured.

The scientists hope the breakthrough will offer an alternative to refrigeration and that it could go some way in solving global food spoilage issues.

The United Nations reports half of the world’s fruit and vegetable crops are lost during the food supply chain every year, largely due to food spoiling before it can make it to consumers.

The study did not test whether the silk had any impact on taste.