Spiders can spin stronger silks using carbon nanotubes

Spider Silk

Carbon nanotubes or graphene can help spiders spin stronger silk, a new study has shown.

According to researchers at the University of Trento in Italy, the new study and the findings paves the way for high-strength materials that could be used to make improved parachutes and body armours. Researchers succeeded in having their spiders produce silk with up to three times the strength and ten times the toughness of the regular material.

The discovery, published in the journal 2D Materials, could pave the way for a new class of bionicomposites, with a wide variety of uses. Researchers looked for ways to strengthen the silk spun by spiders and to do this, the team exposed three different spider species to water dispersions containing carbon nanotubes or graphene.

After collecting the spiders’ silk, the team tested its tensile strength and toughness. The strongest silk the spiders spun had a fracture strength up to 5.4 gigapascals (GPa), and a toughness modulus up to 1,570 joules per gramme (J/g). Normal spider silk, by comparison, has a fracture strength of around 1.5 GPa and a toughness modulus of around 150 J/g, researchers said.

“This is the highest fibre toughness discovered to date, and a strength comparable to that of the strongest carbon fibres or limpet teeth,” said one of the authors.

“Our results are a proof of concept that paves the way to exploiting the naturally efficient spider spinning process to produce reinforced bionic silk fibres, thus further improving one of the most promising strong materials,” he said.

“These silks’ high toughness and resistance to ultimate strain could have applications such as parachutes,” he added.


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