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Secrets of spider silk's strength studied

Jan. 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM   |   Comments

TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say studies of spider webs have revealed why the fiber that spiders spin is, weight for weight, at least five times as strong as piano wire.

Using a sophisticated but non-invasive laser light scattering technique, scientists at the University of Arizona have determined a wide variety of elastic properties of the silk in several intact spiders' webs, a university release reported.

"Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know," chemistry and biochemistry Professor Jeffery Yarger said. "This work represents the most complete understanding we have of the underlying mechanical properties of spider silks."

Spider silk is a biological polymer, related to collagen in skin and bones but much more complex in its structure, the researchers said.

The researchers said studying its molecular structure could lead to materials ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tendons.

"This information should help provide a blueprint for structural engineering of an abundant array of bio-inspired materials, such as precise materials engineering of synthetic fibers to create stronger, stretchier, and more elastic materials," Yarger said.

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