Spiders are known for their ability to spin strong webs and spider silk is one of the strongest known natural substances. Researchers at the Trento University in Italy, however, have now done the impossible by improving the overall strength of spider silk. How? By dosing some spiders with grapheme, a manmade carbon-based substance.
To do this, the scientists sprayed Pholcidae spiders with nanotubes made of graphene and carbon. While this did not cause all of the spiders to develop stronger spider silk, many were actually able to create webbing that was three and a half times stronger than the toughest spider silk currently known.
Spider Silk Strength Comes From Coating on Strands
Although the researchers are not certain, they attribute the increase in strength to the fact that the graphene coated the spider silk strands via the outside of each strand of webbing. Another theory was that the carbon had somehow absorbed into the bodies of the spiders. Several of the spiders, however, died after being sprayed with the graphene mixture.
Spider Silk Strongest, Most Amazing Material Known to Man
Spider silk is already one of the most amazing and strongest natural materials known to mankind and has tensile strength that is similar to that of alloy steel. At the moment, scientists are still not 100 percent certain about how the process works or how the solution of graphene and carbon nanotubes resulted in an increase in the overall strength of spider silk. However, if the process can be perfected, they speculate that it could be modified for use on other plants or animals in a huge variety of applications.
Some possible uses include: the creation of stronger, possibly bullet proof clothing, as well as the construction of bridges. Researchers are now looking to conduct more experiments along a similar fashion in order to continue to study this process in further detail – especially if they expect to use the material for any practical purpose in the future.