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Spider Silk

June 4, 2009

Treating spider silk with a chemical process makes it strong and tough.


Strengthening spider silk …I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

At the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Germany, chemist and materials scientist Mato Knez got some help recently from an eight-legged lab assistant. Knez and his colleagues wanted to see how a biomaterial would stand up to a harsh chemical process normally used in the semiconductor industry. So they went into the garden, found a spider, and collected some of its dragline silk. They found that silk treated with this process not only stayed intact but became very tough. In fact, Knez says it stretched almost twice as much as usual without breaking.

MATO KNEZ (Max Planck):
If you can apply this method to other materials, potentially even artificial materials like polymers, then it might be really technologically very interesting.

Knez says their results suggest this might be a way to make lighter and more flexible materials. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.