Novel natural nanomaterial spins off from spider-mite genome sequencing

May 23, 2013
Two females on bean leaf.

(Phys.org) —A new, natural nanomaterial, which may prove incredibly beneficial to medical bioengineers, has been discovered by the research team at Western University that successfully sequenced the spider mite genome in 2011.

Western biology professor Miodrag Grbic and his team have now collaborated with physicist Jeff Hutter to test – for the first-time ever – the durability of spider-mite silk and found the bionanomaterial, which is one thousand times thinner than , to be a potentially superior alternative to , itself long considered a highly attractive light-weight biomaterial due to its high tensile strength and .

The findings were published in Journal of Applied Physics.

"One of the discoveries spinning out from our sequencing of the spider-mite genome was spider-mite silk," explains Grbic, regarding the findings published in Nature in 2011. "When we conceived this project, our idea was to develop tools to control this important world-wide pest but we didn't even dream that we were going to discover a potential bionanomaterial naturally produced by the spider-mite."

Due to the near infinitesimal size of the spider mite silk, traditional theories were irrelevant so Hutter and Steve Hudson from the Department of Physics & Astronomy were forced to rethink conventional methods used for measuring the mechanical properties of nanomaterials.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"Basically you measure the strength of a nanofibre by anchoring it at both ends, suspending it, and then bending it with an atomic force microscope," explains Hutter. "These fibres were so thin that the conventional theory didn't apply and we had to develop a new theory to understand the data."

Hutter and Grbic are most excited that spider mite silk has proven to be a truly natural , making its practical applications numerous.

"Spider silk, which people often talk about, has similar properties but it doesn't score quite as high on Young's modulus," says Hutter, explaining the scientific measure used to characterize stiffness in elastic materials. "Plus silk is way thinner."

Grbic says potential applications would require further research but could include construction of scaffolding for cell growth, as well as tissue regeneration and transplantation.

Explore further: Silkworms spinning spider webs

Related Stories

Silkworms spinning spider webs

January 3, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A spiders silk is strong and more elastic and has a large range of possible medical applications. However, spiders have a history of being territorial and prone to cannibalism, so the idea of having a large ...

Most stretchable spider silk reported

February 8, 2012

The egg sac silk of the cocoon stalk of the cave spider Meta menardi is the most stretchable egg sac silk yet tested, according to a study published Feb. 8 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers unravel mysteries of spider silk

January 27, 2013

(Phys.org)—Scientists at Arizona State University are celebrating their recent success on the path to understanding what makes the fiber that spiders spin – weight for weight - at least five times as strong as piano wire. ...

A silky spin on protective armor

May 13, 2013

At seven times the toughness of Kevlar, a silk produced by the Caerostris darwini spider of Madagascar is more robust than any other material—synthetic or natural. Most spider silks are about two times tougher than Kevlar, ...

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Changing the color of light

July 23, 2015

Researchers at the University of Delaware have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to explore a new idea that could improve solar cells, medical imaging and even cancer treatments. Simply put, they want ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.