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article imageStudying spiders for silk technology

By Tim Sandle     Nov 7, 2013 in Science
Scientists are studying spiders with the hope of developing super-sticky films and wafer-thin electronics and sensors for medical implants that are highly compatible with the human body.
For the research, a team have studied the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles recluse) which produces super-thin ribbons of silk as opposed to the round fibers typically spun by spiders. The reason for selecting this type of spider is because the silk ribbons produced by the spider have the same outstanding strength and toughness of a standard spider silk; furthermore, their flat structure makes it possible to study the material's molecular structure in great detail and investigate what gives it its strength.
The scientists found that the extreme thinness of the ribbons, which are up to 10 nanometres wide and only a few tens of nanometers thick, combined with its stiffness and the ability to adapt to the shapes of surfaces is what gives it its unprecedented adhesive properties. From this, they hope to develop a new generation of adhesives; new super-sticky cling films; and also for the manufacture of thin-film electronic devices, which might even be implanted as sensors in the human body.
The study was a collaboration between Oxford University (UK) and The College of William and Mary (USA). The findings have been reported in the journal Advanced Materials, in a paper titled “Brown Recluse Spider's Nanometer Scale Ribbons of Stiff Extensible Silk.”
More about Spiders, Silk, webs, Nano
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