❝Spider silk is one of the more extraordinary materials known to science. The protein fiber, spun by spiders to make webs, is stronger than almost anything that humans can make.
The dragline silk spiders use to make a web’s outer rim and spokes is amazing stuff. It matches high-grade alloy steel for tensile strength but is about a sixth as dense. It is also highly ductile, sometimes capable of stretching to five times its length.
This combination of strength and ductility makes spider silk extremely tough, matching the toughness of state-of-the-art carbon fibers such as Kevlar.
So it goes without saying that the ability to make spider silk even stronger and tougher would be a significant scientific coup. Which is why the work of Nicola Pugno at the University of Trento in Italy and a few pals is something of a jaw-dropper.
❝These guys have found a way to incorporate carbon nanotubes and graphene into spider silk and increase its strength and toughness beyond anything that has been possible before. The resulting material has properties such as fracture strength, Young’s modulus, and toughness modulus higher than anything ever measured.
❝The team’s approach is relatively straightforward. They started with 15 Pholcidae spiders, collected from the Italian countryside, which they kept in controlled conditions in their lab. They collected samples of dragline silk produced by these spiders as a reference.
The team then used a neat trick to introduce carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes into the spider silk. They simply sprayed the spiders with water containing the nanotubes or flakes and then measured the mechanical properties of the silk that the spiders produced…
❝In other words, giving spiders water that is infused with carbon nanotubes makes them weave silk stronger than any known fiber.
Woo-hoo. We have some fierce spider-critters here in New Mexico we should try this out on!