Artificial spider web material may find uses in health, safety.
The material that spiders produce in their bodies and then squirt and arrange into webs is so strong that it could stop a jumbo jet in its tracks, if it were thicker than the ultra fine netted strands.
Researchers at the Swedish Agriculture University, SLU, have found that the key to making this is a protein that is stored in a spider's body and entails a rapid reduction in the pH (acidity-base quality) of the material. By rapidly lowering the pH as it passes the material through a narrow channel, the arachnid is able to convert the biological solution into one of the world's strongest biomaterial chains.ADVERTISEMENT
Evidently, all spider webs are made of about the same combination of biochemistry. Producing artificial spider thread is the dream of many researchers because it is strong, elastic and biodegradable. With biomedical engineering, SLU researchers believe that spider thread can be used for applications ranging from surgical stitches to bulletproof vests.
In related studies of spider thread released last week by Akron University in Ohio, scientists discovered the sticking characteristics of the substance are enabled by the animal producing micron-size glue drops that are composed of entangled polymers. Because spider web glue is elastic it increases adhesive abilities while stretching and also retains its sticky grip on the prey without breaking. The Ohio researchers hope their work can lead to synthetic adhesives for biomedical, orthopedics and wound-healing applications.