Female Nephila clavipes on her web. The web was characterized using Brillouin spectroscopy to directly and non-invasively determine the mechanical properties. Credit: Jeffery Yarger

Researchers unravel mysteries of spider silk

January 27, 2013

(Phys.org)—Scientists at Arizona State University are celebrating their recent success on the path to understanding what makes the fiber that spiders spin – weight for weight – at least five times as strong as piano wire. They have found a way to obtain a wide variety of elastic properties of the silk of several intact spiders’ webs using a sophisticated but non–invasive laser light scattering technique.

“Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know,” said Professor Jeffery Yarger of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and lead researcher of the study. “This work represents the most complete understanding we have of the underlying mechanical properties of spider silks.”

Spider silk is an exceptional biological polymer, related to collagen (the stuff of skin and bones) but much more complex in its structure. The ASU team of chemists is studying its molecular structure in an effort to produce materials ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tendons.

Read more: Researchers unravel mysteries of spider silk — phys.org.

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