Spider silk strength is in the loop

Article written by Simon Neil

Discovery of hidden thread in silk of deadly spider inspires material-toughening strategy

Scientists have discovered microscopic metastructures in the web of the recluse spider that offer a blueprint for tough new materials.

Source: © Schniepp Lab The recluse spider spins its ribbon-like silk into loops

At first glance, the venomous yet timid Chilean recluse spider (Loxosceles laeta) seems to be highly disorganised in constructing its web. Traversing its lair, it deposits clumpy bales of silk in a messy, tangled cobweb. Look closer. Work led by Hannes Schniepp at the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, US, in collaboration with Fritz Vollrath at the University of Oxford, UK, has shown that the spider carefully choreographs its spinnerets to sew silk in thousands of micrometre-sized loops. When strained, the loops sequentially open to reveal hidden length in the thread, dissipating energy and staving off breakage.

To read the full article visit Chemistry World.

Toughness-enhancing metastructure in the recluse spider’s looped ribbon silk
S. R. Koebley, F. Vollrath and H. C. Schniepp
Journal Article Mater. Horiz., 2017, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C6MH00473C, Communication

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