What an idea! Scientists sprayed water containing carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes on spiders making them produce the toughest fibers ever measured.
This will blow your geek mind. It has blown mine. Spiders have been known to make the strongest material matching the toughness of state-of-the-art carbon fibers that can be found in Kevlar. Earlier this year snail teeth have been found to be stronger though than spider silk. But now with the help of very creative scientists spiders are back on top.
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Material Scientists in Italy sprayed spiders with water containing carbon nanotubes and graphene flakes. This simple trick made the spiders make silk containing carbon fiber. They used common cellar spiders for this experiment.
“We measure a fracture strength up to 5.4 GPa, a Young’s modulus up to 47.8 GPa and a toughness modulus up to 2.1 GPa,” said Nicola Pugno at the University of Trento in Italy. “This is the highest toughness modulus for a fiber, surpassing synthetic polymeric high performance fibers (e.g. Kelvar49) and even the current toughest knotted fibers.”
The Limpet snail teeth clocks in at 5GPa. The carbon fiber spider silk beats that record.
The Italian scientists could proof that the spiders incorporated the carbon fiber in the silk, but they could not figure out how that is even possible.
At this point there is no efficient way to harvest spider silk. Until then the findings of this research have no industrial application.
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Results of the research have been published in a paper (Via MIT Technology Review) titled "Silk reinforced with graphene or carbon nanotubes spun by spiders", authored by Nicola Pugno, Emiliano Lepore, Francesco Bonaccorso, Matteo Bruna, Federico Bosia, Simone Taioli, Giovanni Garberoglio, Andrea. C. Ferrari.