The National Science Foundation puts a spotlight on Tufts University, where researchers have taken proteins from the cocoons of silk moths and used them to create a new water-repellent non-stick surface:
More recently, scientists have learned to break down the fibers to their basic protein element — silk fibroin — and reconstitute it into gels, films, sponges and other forms to create everything from implantable orthopedic screws to textile inks that change color in response to body chemistry.
Turning silk into a water repellant material involved covering the surface of the silk fibroin with short chemical chains containing carbon and fluorine, called perfluorocarbons. These chains are very stable and do not react with other chemicals, nor do they interact with proteins and other biological chemicals in the body.
While the natural surface of the silk protein acts like a magnet to water, with negatively and positively charged branches on the silk attracting water, a silk protein covered with perfluorocarbons leaves little for the water to grab on to.
It’s not just water that rolls off the nonstick silk, but any substance that has water as a major component, which could include various foods, blood, cells and tissues.