Spider silk is stronger than steel

 

Spider silk is one of the strongest fibers and toughest materials found in nature, – it’s even stronger than steel

Spider silk is made up of chains of amino acids, proteins called fibroins. It’s very strong – in fact, weight for weight it’s tougher than steel – yet also extremely elastic. These two characteristics, together, make for one unique substance in nature that the world’s greatest material scientists have been trying to re-create artificially.

When compared with a piece of steel the same diameter, spider silk is five times stronger than steel. It has also been hypothesised that a pencil-width of spider silk held up in front of a Boeing 747, would be enough to stop it in flight! Although, obviously, this hasn’t been tested.

In comparison to Kevlar, which is the strongest man-made polymer, spider silk is almost as strong – but not quite. Which is still extremely impressive for a little creature that lives in your back garden.

Silk is secreted as a liquid from the spider by the spinnerets, which are special glands located in the tip of the arachnid’s abdomen. Upon contact with air the liquid instantly hardens to become a fine but strong silk. As the material is produced, the spider pulls it into long, thin threads using its legs.

The reason the spider itself does not become caught in its own web is that, first, it knows which sticky strands to avoid and, second, the adhesive hardens if the unwitting victim makes a sudden movement, but not with the gentle, considered movements of the spider.

 

Don’t want to miss out? Become a digital reader today, order back issues, or subscribe for a great deal. Find us on Facebook here: search and on Twitter here: search to keep in touch and up to date

Photograph: Scott Anderson

 

Get more animals every month with World of Animals for only £3.99, or get a great deal by subscribing online today.

Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje