Spiders sprayed with carbon nanotubes spin superstrong webs

May 6, 2015 by Bob Yirka weblog
Schematic of the model. Credit: arXiv:1504.06751 [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working in Italy has found that simply spraying a spider with a carbon nanotube solution can cause the spider to spin stronger webs. In their paper they have uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, the team describes their experiments with both graphene and nanotube solutions and what happened when they sprayed it on ordinary spiders.

As the researchers note, while using silkworms has been quite successful, doing the same to harvest from has not, (because of their territorial traits, the complex nature of the silk they make and their cannibalistic tendencies) which is frustrating as the silk they make to spin their webs has so many outstanding qualities. Intrigued by prior research efforts that investigated the possibility of enhancing spider silk by spraying the spiders or feeding them different materials (titanium, zinc, aluminum, lead, etc.) to improve the mechanical, electrical, magnetic or even fluorescent properties of the silk, the researchers wondered what would happen if they sprayed the arachnids, with a graphene or carbon nanotube solution.

To find out, they wandered out into the natural environs near their lab and collected a host of cellar spiders and carefully brought them back to their lab. They then proceeded to spray ten of them with a solution and five with a graphene solution (the particles were 200 to 300 nanometers in width). Sadly, four of the spiders died shortly thereafter, and some produced poor quality webs, but a few of them produced webs that were actually stronger than their normal webs. Testing showed that some of the silk with nanotubes in it was 3.5 times as strong as giant riverine orb spider silk, which is considered the strongest natural . Also closer examination using Ramen spectroscopy revealed peaks in the silk where the nanotubes were present.

The researchers do not know how the carbon in either form wound up in the silk, but have excluded the possibility that it became drenched with it as it exited the spider's body, the uniformity of the silk was too fine—they think that the spiders pull materials in from their immediate environment and use it as an ingredient in their silk making. Their results suggest it should be possible to produce such silk in small quantities, though it is not clear to what use it would be put.

Explore further: Firm uses genetic modification to coax spider silk from silkworms

More information: Silk reinforced with graphene or carbon nanotubes spun by spiders, arXiv, arXiv:1504.06751 [cond-mat.mtrl-sci] http://arxiv.org/abs/1504.06751

Here, we report the production of silk incorporating graphene and carbon nanotubes directly by spider spinning, after spraying spiders with the corresponding aqueous dispersions. We observe a significant increment of the mechanical properties with respect to the pristine silk, in terms of fracture strength, Young's and toughness moduli. We measure a fracture strength up to 5.4 GPa, a Young's modulus up to 47.8 GPa and a toughness modulus up to 2.1 GPa, or 1567 J/g, which, to the best of our knowledge, is the highest reported to date, even when compared to the current toughest knotted fibres. This approach could be extended to other animals and plants and could lead to a new class of bionic materials for ultimate applications.

via Newscientist

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14 comments

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antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) May 06, 2015
OK. Right. Good job.

But how the hell do you come up with an idea like that?
Is there a meeting that goes:
Scientist 1: "Hey guys...I wonder what will happen if we spray spiders with carbon nanotubes"
Scientist 2: "Dunno, but I happen to have some spiders in my lab"
Scientist 3: "I got this can of nanotubes up on a shelf somewhere"
Scientist 1: "All right...you're on."

Sadly, four of the spiders died shortly thereafter, and some produced poor quality webs...

Ya think it might have had something to do with sprayingthem with friggin' nanoparticles?
Returners
not rated yet May 06, 2015
They didn't mention which 4 died. could have been as many as 4 from the graphene group or as many as 4 from the nanotube group/
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2015
but ant to be fair

sounds legit...

they didn't hide the poor quality of the research or the impetus that made them do it... they were like hey i don't know what will happen lets find out...

Sadly, four of the spiders died shortly thereafter,...
gkam
1 / 5 (4) May 06, 2015
Here we go with another new discovery, like nuclear materials and petroleum solvents. How long before we find the dangers? Are we setting ourselves up for nanoscale trouble?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2015
but ant to be fair

sounds legit...

I wasn't knocking their research. I find it actually a quite intriguing idea to use strenghetned spider silk.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) May 06, 2015

they didn't hide the poor quality of the research or the impetus that made them do it... they were like hey i don't know what will happen lets find out...

Here. Hold my beer. I wanna try somethin'...
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.2 / 5 (5) May 06, 2015
Gkam,
Nuclear technology was one of the greatest discoveries man ever made.
Even our research into the nuclear bombs could prove useful in space mining some day or something since bombs are easy enough to make if you have the infrastructure.
Every tool has its use, but it's up to people to use it right.
gkam
1 / 5 (3) May 06, 2015
Who do YOU trust with nuclear technology? North Korea? Capitalistic corporations, like at Fermi I, TMI II, or Fukushima? Brute-force governments such as the Soviet Union?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2015
Ya think it might have had something to do with sprayingthem with friggin' nanoparticles?
This is how many important discoveries are made. If it would make you feel better you could say a prayer for their little souls, paid for via church tax.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2015
And sooner or later, someone is gonna wonder what would happen if you sprayed humans with them...
nilbud
not rated yet May 06, 2015
Well that's the plot for the next Spiderman movie sorted out.
Returners
not rated yet May 07, 2015
Well that's the plot for the next Spiderman movie sorted out.


He gets sprayed and discovers new powers, but also has an identiy crisis and rejects Mary Jane. Later he discovers he doesn't need his new powers to face the villain, he only needs her Love. lol. That'd be pretty funny, but lame.

Wait a minute...they already made that one....
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2015
Well that's the plot for the next Spiderman movie sorted out.


What about Dr. Smith in the "Lost in Space" movie?
Forestgnome
5 / 5 (2) May 10, 2015
When I was a kid and was focusing the suns rays on ants, I was hoping they would utilize solar power in a new way. All my experiments failed.

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