A Japanese researcher has taken 300 spiders and used those arachnids to harvest silk in enough quantity to create a full set of violin strings. The researcher is Shigeyoshi Osaki from Japan’s Nara Medical University. Osaki has been interested in the mechanical properties of spider silk for a while, and in particular, has studied “dragline silk” that spiders use to dangle from objects. The findings from the study are described in a coming edition of scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
The strings created from spider silk are said to have a “soft and profound timbre.” The sound created by the spider silk strings may come from the way it is packaged. The strings are packaged in a manner that leaves very little space between any of the strands of silk. The spiders used to harvest the silk were all captive female Nephila maculata spiders. Apparently, the spiders are part of the species of “Golden Orb-weavers” that are known for making complex webs.
Each of the violin strings required between 3000 and 5000 individual strands of silk wound in one direction to form a bundle. Three of these bundles were then twisted together in the opposite direction to form a string. The tensile strength of spider silk strings could withstand less tension than a traditional gut string, but more than aluminum coated nylon core string. Tensile strength is important to keep the strings from breaking during a performance.