Many times big discoveries and brilliant inventions were created thanks to inspirations by nature. Today it is still a good source of knowledge about structures and mechanics. Biomimetics (imitation of the natural elements and systems for the purpose of solving human problems) remains as an important part of engineering and science.

A perfect thread

Spiders usually are related with their beautiful threads that they produce when creating a spider web. Nowadays it is a kind of phenomenon for many of the scientists who are carrying out some detailed researches on fascinating properties of the silk made by one of the venomous spiders – black widow. An appropriate comparison of this kind of thread shows the silk is stronger than steel and at the same time very light and tough. What is more, it is totally biodegradable. All those properties fit perfectly to principles of the contemporary material design.

spider black widow
A black widow getting an MRI. Image Credit: San Diego State University.

How does it work?

The mystery of how black widow is able to create such a super thread was researched for a long time. Eventually, a team of researchers from Northwestern University and San Diego State University found an answer. We heard about clothing made of synthetics spider thread but this time it could help to create much stronger structures. Thanks to the discovery it might be possible to produce a super-tough spider silk in labs. Later it could be used for bridge construction or bulletproof vests production.

bridge

In the publication in the magazine the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists explained how the research was carried out and how it all works. They discovered that the proteins start out as complex, compound clusters of molecules. This structure is believed to be the main factor to the strength and other properties of the spider’s silk. That knowledge of the nanostructured protein helps to understand the basis of the spinning process and to our ability to mimic the natural material properties in synthetic analogues.

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