A paper published in our journal Materials Horizons this week, announcing the surprising material properties of the silk of a deadly spider, has been causing a stir.
Scientists in the UK and USA have investigated the apparently haphazard structure of silk created by the venomous Chilean recluse spider (Loxosceles laeta). They discovered that each thread consists of thousands of tiny loops that unravel when force is applied – a kind of buffer zone that helps prevent the whole thread from breaking. It helps to explain why the silk of the recluse spider is so incredibly strong – five times tougher than steel, weight for weight.
The story was covered in our own magazine Chemistry World, and has been picked up by the Orlando Sentinel and the Virginia Gazette, as well as a number of science outlets including Science Daily and Seeker.
The paper’s corresponding author Hannes Schniepp, of The College of William & Mary, USA, explained the importance of the discovery to the Virginia Gazette. "Spider silk is already one of the toughest materials we know," he said. "It's several times tougher than Kevlar, and Kevlar is one of the best materials we currently use. ... And these micro-loops, they seem to be just yet another trick that nature invented to go even further. We found that, even with relatively modest amount of loops, you can actually improve the toughness of the material by tens of percent."
The paper is free to access upon registration. Read it on our website here.