Science News

Scientists Create Super-Strong Spider Silk Using Graphene And Carbon Nanotubes


Scientists from the University of Trento in Italy have made super spider silk by spraying spiders with water infused with carbon nanotubes and graphene.

According to MIT Technology Review, spider silk is extremely tough and able to match state-of-the art carbon fibers like Kevlar.  The super spider silk surpasses Kevlar.

Much like in comics, where a spider exposed to radiation gave Peter Parker spider-strength, real world experiments exposing spiders to carbon nanotubes and graphene produced super-strong spider silk. 

Emiliano Lepore, a post doctoral fellow at the university’s department of structural engineering led the experiments.  He and his team took 15 Pholcidae spiders (cellar spiders  or daddy longlegs) and sprayed them with carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes mixed in water, according to CNET.

According to Tech Times, how the graphene becomes part of the silk is unclear.  The spiders may coat the threads with the carbon material in an effort to clean themselves after they are sprayed.  Another possibility could be that they somehow incorporate it into their natural silk.

What is clear is, the sprayed Pholcidae spiders produced silk that was 3.5 times as strong as silk from the giant riverine orb spider which produces the strongest, natural spider silk in the world.  Tech Time states that this also makes it as tough as limpet teeth, the hardest substance known in the animal kingdom.

Further research is needed before super spider silk can have commercial applications.  For one thing, the spray isn’t so good for the spiders as four of the original 15 died after exposure.  Some of the surviving spiders didn’t produce super-strong silk and even produced lower-quality silk.

Also, as the MIT Technology Review points out, there has yet to be an efficient way to harvest big amounts of spider silk. If there was, spider silk would have widespread applications in everything from tissue repair to garment design.

In other coverage of next-generation fabrics here in Immortal News, Disney has developed a fabric-based 3D printer.

What do you think, how can we use this newly created super spider silk?

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