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The Italian violin made from silk

The Italian project has been conferred the Mayor of London's International Student Innovation Award

The Italian violin made from silk

Claudia Astarita

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Luca Alessandrini is from Urbino and obtained a postgraduate degree in Design Engineering. He has now become famous for developing a composite material including spiders' silk and using it to create two prototype violins. Dr Alessandrini made his violin out of a mixture of silkworm silk and resin, impregnating the top side of the instrument with three strands of golden silk, spun by an Australian golden orb spider.

Spiders' silk was chosen by Dr Alessandrini because of its amazing properties, enabling it to serve many purposes.  He developed his material in conjunction with the Associazione Nazionale Liutai Artistici Italiani, the Italian association of violin-makers, whose members were amazed at the results. "I'd never ever thought it's possible to achieve such a good sounding instrument", an artisan who collaborated with Dr Alessandrini declared. When the violin is played, the spider silk vibrates the instrument's composite casing, emitting a sound which can be customised by tweaking the exact blend of the material.

While other modern materials such as carbon fibre proved an inadequate substitute for food, because they lack its organic subtleties, potential implementations of this innovative material are limitless: once experimental research better understands how the different positions of the fibres affect the sound, it will be possible to try several woven techniques in order to tailor the acoustic properties of any instrument, or speakers, amplifiers, and headphones, too.

The project was conferred the 'Mayor of London's International Student Innovation Award' and Dr Alessandrini qualified as London's most innovative foreign student, beating hundreds of other entries from 49 countries and 17 universities to win the 10,000-pound prize, together with a place on a business mentoring course and multiple networking opportunities. The prize giving ceremony will be held in London in November, and Dr Alessandrini is surely thrilled to participate.

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