Popular Science

Black widow spiders could teach nanomaterial experts a thing or two

Scientists are finally unspooling how spider silk works.
A black widow hangs from three threads.

Black widows spin some of the strongest strands of all the spiders, so researchers zapped its silk fluid with an electron beam to see what it was made of.

It appears that spiders beat us to the age of nanomaterials by about 300 million years, spinning nanoparticles into strong yet stretchy threads far beyond our modern manufacturing capabilities. But now we’re trying to catch up, studying their secrets using advanced technology of our own.

Spider silk starts off as a soupy mixture somewhere between a liquid and materials in nature at room temperature and without any fancy machinery.

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