Silken Thread


These master builders have fantastic networks. Scientists have now discovered the secret of their silken artworks.

Producing construction materials with similar properties to natural materials is very challenging for scientists and engineers. Spider silk is one of those challenges. It is ultralight and elastic like rubber. The material is 25 times stronger than steel. Most spiders have several silk glands. They are able to use the right material for every function. Their abseil threads are extremely tear-resistant, and their web threads are elastic. This keeps the web from tearing when it catches insects and keeps the prey largely intact as well. A research team led by Professor Thomas Scheibel at the University of Bayreuth managed, for the first time, in 2015 to fully decipher spiders’ silk production process and ascertain why the material is so incredibly strong. This laid the foundation for artificial spider silk production. Wherever tensile strength is used in the construction sector, steel is used – both in reinforced concrete and, for example, in the construction of suspension bridges such as the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We will have to wait and see if the material developed by the researchers in Bayreuth replaces construction steel one day.


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