Japan scientist makes violin strings from spider silk

March 6, 2012
Nara Medical University professor Shigeyoshi Osaki, seen here playing a violin which has strings made of spider silk, at his laboratory in Kashihara city in Nara prefecture, western Japan.

A Japanese scientist said he has made violin strings out of spider silk and claims that -- in the right hands -- they produce a beautiful sound.

Thousands of the tiny strands can be wound together to produce a strong but flexible string that is perfect for the instrument, said Shigeyoshi Osaki, professor of polymer chemistry at Nara Medical University.

Osaki, who has been working with for 35 years, has previously suggested the material could be used for surgical sutures or for bullet proof vests, but his passion for the violin inspired him to create something with a musical twist.

In the process of weaving the threads, their shape changes from cylindrical to polygonal, which means they fit together much better, Osaki told AFP.

"During the assembly of normal threads there are many spaces between individual fibres," he said.

"What we achieved left no space among the . It made the strings stronger. This can have all sorts of applications in our day-to-day lives," he said, adding 300 female Nephila maculata spiders had provided his raw materials.

The strength and durability of spider silk is not a , with previous studies showing it can withstand and the effects of ultraviolet light.

Osaki once produced a rope spun from spider silk that he said could theoretically support a 600 kilogram (1,300 pound) weight.

Now his latest creation is making waves among musicians, who have praised the sonorous quality of the spider silk violin strings for their "soft and profound timbre".

"Professional violinists have said they can tell the difference" whether the strings are on a or on Osaki's own $1,200 violin, he said.

"It's one thing to create scientifically meaningful items, but I also wanted to produce something that would be socially accepted by ordinary people," he said.

Details of Osaki's research will be published in , a journal of the American Physical Society.

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 ...

New partnership looks to industrialize spider silk production

September 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- For thousands of years, human beings have looked with envy upon the silk webs spun by spiders; not only are they stronger than steel but they are tougher too (a vest made of spider web material can stop bullets ...

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.

Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk

May 31, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the University of Wyoming have developed a way to incorporate spiders' silk-spinning genes into goats, allowing the researchers to harvest the silk protein from the goats’ milk for a variety ...

Recommended for you

More efficient separation of methane and CO2

October 18, 2017

To make natural gas and biogas suitable for use, the methane has to be separated from the CO2. This involves the use of membranes, filters that stop the methane and allow the CO2 to pass through. Researchers at KU Leuven ...

Stiff fibres spun from slime

October 17, 2017

Nature is an excellent teacher – even for material scientists. Researchers, including scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, have now observed a remarkable mechanism by which polymer materials ...

A new way to harness wasted methane

October 17, 2017

Methane gas, a vast natural resource, is often disposed of through burning, but new research by scientists at MIT could make it easier to capture this gas for use as fuel or a chemical feedstock.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Beauty, through SCIENCE!

It is a great pity there is no attached sound-bite. I'd love to hear them.
1.4 / 5 (11) Mar 06, 2012
Those are some violin strings that will never break.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
Those are some violin strings that will never break.

I'd like a pair for an electric guitar then. That damn high E string can't handle my abuse.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
Those are some violin strings that will never break.

I'd like a pair for an electric guitar then. That damn high E string can't handle my abuse.

I wonder if they will detune over time.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
Spider silk is more susceptible to contraction due to water. Up to 50% in fact. I imagine, the player would have to wear latex gloves and play in a generally dry environment to ensure the strings don't instantly go out of tune.
not rated yet Mar 06, 2012
Xbw: Don't electric guitar strings have to be conductive? I believe spider silk is an insulator.
1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2012
Good point, although it is possible to still use them acoustically with an electric pickup.
not rated yet Mar 06, 2012
Okay, learn something new every day. You can probably tell that I'm not a musician... Thank you!
1 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2012
"Professional violinists have said they can tell the difference" whether the strings are on a Stradivarius or on Osaki's own $1,200 violin" - Shigeyoshi Osaki

The resonance bodies have to be identical in shape if there is to be no acoustical difference from identical sources of vibration.

The differences heard come the difference resonating bodies, not the vibrating strings.

Long ago a subject of scientific research ... someone innocently posed a harmless sounding question:

Can you hear the shape of an object?

The answer is yes and no.
Not always the is shape of an object, that is able to vibrate mechanically, unique to the acoustical information that the object is able to provide - another shape will provide identical acoustical information - as far as the resolution resolved by human hearing is concerned.

1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
A violin string? This is a way better: http://www.dailym...ilk.html (video)
1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
Spider silk is more susceptible to contraction due to water. Up to 50% in fact
Yep, it's a serious problem. Lower-middle arp strings are made of organic material (sheep guts), which is why they're must be tuned very often. BTW Why the only smart comment has been downvoted from here? I see, it's because the silly twaddlers don't like it here...
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
Yes. Unless crystallization occurs while under tension, solids will deform (mostly as elongation) forever until breakage/rupture.

There are self tuning musical strings that exist. The deformation needed to tune these strings is done thermal-electrically.

Commentary threads where all fives exist or no rating at all I like the best.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Washing instructions (and literally everything you need to know about spider silk):


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.