According to a research conducted by scientists at the University of Trento in Italy spiders which were sprayed with graphene were able to weave webs which were more resistant.
It is already known that spider web is one of the strongest natural materials in the world. Graphene is considered to be one of the strongest artificial materials. It consists of sheets of carbon which are just one atom thick. Scientists wanted to see what would happen if they were to combine them. The result is a type of silk with record beating properties.
The researchers used five spiders from the Pholcidae family for the study. The spiders were sprayed with a mixture of water and graphene particles which were 200 to 300 nanometres wide. Another ten spiders were sprayed with a mixture of water and nanotubes in order to compare the effects of the two materials. According to the results of the experiment some of the spiders produced weaker webs than usual, but one of the spiders sprayed with nanotubes produced a web almost 3.5 times stronger than the best natural silk produced by the huge riverine orb spider.
It is a mystery how the spiders managed to work the graphene and the nanotubes into their silk. Some speculate that the substances could have coated the outside of the silk or the nanotubes and the graphene could have been absorbed by the spider and afterwards incorporated into the silk produced by them.
However the experiment was dangerous for the arachnids. Four of the spiders died after they were sprayed and did not even get the chance to spin any silk. Although this method of infusing spiders with strength-giving materials seems to be very promising, further research must be conducted in order to find a reliable way of creating new stronger silk.
For now it is not yet clear what could be the use of such a material. Pugno suggests that a web made from this super silk could be capable of catching a falling aircraft. Until then scientists have started considering extending this approach to other animals and plants as well. This could lead to the emergence of a new class of bionic materials of ultimate strength. Pungo remarked:
“This concept could become a way to obtain materials with superior characteristics.”
One of the other ways in which this technique could be further put into practice is to dose silkworms with artificial substances.
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