A new study reveals an invention that would make even Spiderman jealous . Researchers at the University of Trento, Italy have come up with a way to have spiders produce even stronger webs, that were proven to be more resistant than Kevlar, the synthetic fiber that bullet-proof equipment is made of.
This was achieved by spraying 15 Pholcidae spiders (cellar spiders) with water mixed with graphene flakes and carbon nanotubes. They compared the webs produced by these spiders before the experiment and the webs produced afterwards. The results were astounding. According to Tech Times, the new material was 3.5 times stronger than the silk produced by the Darwin’s bark spider, known as the giant riverine orb spider, which makes the strongest web in the world.
The scientists believe that the carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes somehow made their way into the silk after the spider ingested the sprayed substance, but they have not been able to determine how this was possible yet. A theory is that the insects were trying to get the graphene out of their system, so a way to do that was by releasing the substances into the silk they were spinning.
The study does not only reveal amazing new facts about spiders, but it can also provide important data for experts who want to produce resistant material, possibly giving spider silk new applications in both science and electronics. It could be particularly useful especially when manufacturing certain types of strong fabrics or in the development of bionic materials. It is the thinness and the strength that make the new material so valuable for further use.
This was not the first time experts made use of spider silk to create strong material. In 2012, scientists from Forensic Genomics Consortium in the Netherlands created a synthetic human skin that was able to stop bullets. This fabric was made from a protein found in spider silk and the milk produced by genetically engineered goats.
However, as exciting as the outcome of the experiment might sound, there were also some shortcomings to it, which might pose challenges for future experts trying to employ the same practices to produce stronger materials. Firstly, four of the spiders died not long after being sprayed with the substance. Secondly, the spiders that survived the experiment produced a lower-quality silk than that spun before they ingested the substance. This would basically mean that a lot of research still needs to be carried out before making use of similar practices at an industrial level.
Nevertheless, the study led by Emiliano Lepore, a postdoctoral fellow in the university’s Department of Mechanical and Structural Engineering reveals that much is still to be discovered about spiders. Their silk was already known to be extremely strong, but the idea that it can be made even stronger is quite surprising and a bit overwhelming.
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