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posted by martyb on Thursday August 17 2017, @07:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the carbon-ated-spiders dept.

Spider silk can be made stronger by feeding the spiders that produce the silk aqueous dispersions containing graphene or carbon nanotubes:

[Researchers] in Italy and the UK have found a way to make [spider] silk a lot stronger, using various different spider species and carbon nanotubes or graphene. The research team, led by Professor Nicola Pugno at the University of Trento, Italy, succeeded in having their spiders produce silk with up to three times the strength and ten times the toughness of the regular material.

[...] "We already know that there are biominerals present in in the protein matrices and hard tissues of insects, which gives them high strength and hardness in their jaws, mandibles and teeth, for example. So our study looked at whether spider silk's properties could be 'enhanced' by artificially incorporating various different nanomaterials into the silk's biological protein structures."

To do this, the team exposed three different spider species to water dispersions containing carbon nanotubes or graphene. After collecting the spiders' silk, the team tested its tensile strength and toughness. Professor Pugno said: "We found that the strongest silk the spiders spun had a fracture strength up to 5.4 gigapascals (GPa), and a toughness modulus up to 1,570 joules per gram (J/g). Normal spider silk, by comparison, has a fracture strength of around 1.5 GPa and a toughness modulus of around 150 J/g.

Spider silk reinforced by graphene or carbon nanotubes (DOI: 10.1088/2053-1583/aa7cd3) (DX)

Related: The Strongest Natural Material: Sea Snail Teeth
Synthetic Spider Silk Fiber Created

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 17 2017, @01:02PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 17 2017, @01:02PM (#555268)

    Think very carefully of the implications: All that it took to embed strong artificial material into a natural secretion of an animal's gland was to feed it to it!

    Could it be that, contrary to what we all feared, ingesting carbon nano-particles could be reinforcing, rather then damaging, to living tissues?

    If we could attach binding amino acids to a nano tubes scaffolding, could we get more strong more durable tendons, muscles, membranes, etc in living organisms?

    Perhaps even in (super-) humans? All right, now I am almost repeating myself - that really has a great comic book potential.

    But is that all there is?

    Nevertheless, on the other hand, spider silk with carbon nanotubes in it is just another way to say "inferior chopped-up carbon nanotube fiber, spliced together with proteins from spider silk". It won't get us nearer to producing strong continuous monofilament we need for space elevator and other techno-dreams waiting for that material to appear. So far, it is Yay for spiders, they'll get to weave enormous webs and fly many miles further in the wind, but still not cigar for us, except maybe that we might get a way to enhance our longevity, toughness and strength, once we make it for lab mice (again), then pigs, then primates, and finally for crazy scientists.

  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday August 17 2017, @04:41PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Thursday August 17 2017, @04:41PM (#555408)

    Either that, or you need new sewer pipes and extra-strength condoms.