Unravelling the mysteries of spider silk

Spider silk has long been noted for its impressive material properties. This prompted researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US to carry out a project to unearth the mechanics of spider silk and explain some of the material's mysteries, and even emulate its extraordinary properties.

The research shows spider webs employ a limited amount of material to capture prey of different sizes. The work also revealed spider webs consist of uniform thread diameters that are better suited to bear force applied at a single point, such as the impact coming from flies hitting webs. In addition a non uniform diameter can also be deployed by arachnids to withstand more widespread pressure such as wind and rain.

The team used orb spider webs as the inspiration for their 3D designs. In each of their samples, they controlled the diameter of the thread as a method of comparing homogeneous and heterogeneous thread thickness.

Justin Cunningham

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