Researchers have found that spraying spiders with graphene or carbon nanotubes gives the insects’ webs unprecedented strength; this gained strength, according to the scientists, is enough to catch a falling airplane.
A group of researchers at Italy’s University of Trento have discovered that combining water with graphene nanotubes or particles that are approximately 300-nanometer wide and then spraying the resulting solution onto the arachnids will surprisingly affect the quality of their silk.
This process, which is yet to be explained properly, was used to create silk from a few spiders in the group of 15 Pholcidae spiders used in the study; the silk thus formed was found to be 3.5 times tougher compared to the best naturally produced silk currently available on the market. For those who don’t know: right now, the silk of the giant riverine orb spiders are known to be the spider silk with maximum strength.
What’s even more amazing is that the strength of the graphene induced spider silk is comparable to several other toughest materials existing in nature, for instance, limpet teeth.
Nicola Pugno, the study’s lead author, and professor of solid and structural mechanics at the University of Trento informed that some spiders used for the research produced poor quality silk. However, the good news is that a significant number of the spiders successfully produced what people refer to as “super silk”.
Pungo said that the super silk produced by the spiders possessed the highest toughness modulus for the fiber of any kind. The material has successfully surpassed the toughness modulus of synthetic polymeric high-performance fibers. That’s not all; it is even tougher than the toughest knotted fibers the market currently has.
Pugno, however, is still not sure about the procedure adopted by graphene to allow its properties get infused into the silk produced by the spiders. Reports are also suggesting that this experiment by Pugno and his colleagues has been speculative in nature and has grabbed more eyeballs due to the surprising results.
Pugno and his team, of course, has a theory of their own; they believe that the spiders might have spun the sprayed graphene solution into their webs for cleaning themselves, which in turn has made the silk produced from the webs tougher than ever before.