Researchers discover spider webs' true 'sticking power' (w/ Video)

May 17, 2010
Todd Blackledge, professor of biology; Vasav Sahni, Ph.D. candidate; and Ali Dhinojwala, chair of the Department of Polymer Science and Morton Professor of Polymer Science reveal the secret of spider web silk.

The secret of a brilliant evolutionary development, spider web glue, has been discovered by University of Akron researchers.

The finding by UA Ph.D. candidate Vasav Sahni and professors Ali Dhinojwala of the Department of Polymer Science and Todd Blackledge of the Department of Biology, was released by Nature Communications (May 17, 2010) in the article, “Viscoelastic Solids Explain Stickiness.”

The discovery, according to the scientists, has significant implications in mimicking bio-adhesives, a field in which the University is taking a leading role in collaboration with its regional research partners and the medical community.

Most of the research in this area of bio-adhesives focuses on discovering the molecule responsible for adhesion, explain Sahni and Dhinojwala.

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

“The success of an adhesive, however, depends on how efficiently the force is transmitted through the adhesive,” Sahni notes.

Dhinojwala adds that the micron-sized glue drops produced by spiders are composed of highly entangled polymers, which are physically or chemically cross-linked and transmit forces efficiently. Consequently, they are at least a 100 times superior to a viscous drop with the same adhesive molecule.

“Existence of similar adhesion strategies in distantly related species of animals suggests a common design principle in the evolution of natural adhesives,” Blackledge says.

“We were able to validate this finding through micro-mechanical stretching of single glue droplets. The elastic properties of the proteins found in the spider glue were crucial in increasing the adhesive forces,” Dhinojwala says.

Sahni notes that the stickiness of the glue droplets depends on the speed at which they are stretched. Subsequently, the glue can hold on to fast-flying insects when they initially impact webs and retain trapped insects for a time period long enough for them to be subdued by the spider.

“This finding should significantly benefit the development of synthetic adhesives for biomedical, orthopedics and wound-healing applications. The understanding of how spiders use this unique will allow scientists to develop reversible that work in the presence of water,” says Dhinojwala.

Explore further: New, more versatile version of Geckskin: Gecko-like adhesives now useful for real world surfaces

More information: Paper link:

Provided by University of Akron

4.6 /5 (10 votes)

Related Stories

Tailoring surgical glues for specific applications

Jul 10, 2009

( -- Surgical adhesives, which can be used to seal tissues after an operation or to repair wounds, are becoming increasingly important parts of a doctor's toolkit. However, their one-size-fits-all ...

Scientists create gecko-inspired bandage

Feb 18, 2008

MIT researchers and colleagues have created a waterproof adhesive bandage inspired by gecko lizards that may soon join sutures and staples as a basic operating room tool for patching up surgical wounds or ...

Podcast: Tiny sea creature and a new medical adhesive

Oct 27, 2009

Scientists questing after a long-sought new medical adhesive describe copying the natural glue secreted by a tiny sea creature called the sandcastle worm in the latest episode in the American Chemical Society's ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

Apr 16, 2014

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 17, 2010
they are 25% there in creating Spiderman

More news stories

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.