Spiders Sprayed With Carbon Nanotubes Produce Super Strong Silk

Posted on May 25, 2015

Spiders sprayed with carbon nanotubes in graphene in experiment

Scientists at the University of Trento in Italy have sprayed spiders with water containing carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes in an experiment. MIT's Technology Review reports that the result of the experiment were spiders that produced the toughest fibers ever measured. The carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes somehow found their way into the fibers the spiders produced. Some of the spiders died after being sprayed but those that survived produced super strong silk.

The spiders used in the experiment were Pholcidae spiders collected from field in Italy. They were kept individually segregated in boxes with air inlets. After being sprayed the scientists waited for the spiders to spin silk and then measured the strength of the silk. SWNTs in the diagram above stands for single wall carbon nanotubes.

The spiders produced silk stronger than Kevlar. The researchers say in their report, "We measure a fracture strength up to 5.4 GPa, a Young’s modulus up to 47.8 GPa and a toughness modulus up to 2.1 GPa. This is the highest toughness modulus for a fibre, surpassing synthetic polymeric high performance fibres (e.g. Kelvar49) and even the current toughest knotted fibers."

The researchers think the approach they used "could be extended to other animals and plants and could lead to a new class of bionic materials for ultimate applications."

The research paper can be found here in the journal Materials Science.

Image: Emiliano Lepore, et. al.