University of Trento researchers have discovered a way to give spiders ultra-strong silk, and it involves spiking the spiders with graphene. The graphene (or carbon nanotubes) is said to only be as thick as an atom, and is mixed with water and then sprayed onto spiders. When those spiders weave silk, the resulting silk is so strong it eclipses the strongest natural spider silk (from a giant riverine orb spider) 3.5 times. The researchers describe most of the silk produced as “super silk”.
Not every spider that was spiked with the graphene produced high-quality silk, but many of them produced ultra-strong “super” silk through a process the researchers haven’t yet identified. The results were a surprise, and now the researchers are tasked with finding out why, exactly, the process has the results it does.
The study was led by Trento professor Nicola Pugno, who says that the graphene perhaps ends up in the web as the spiders clean themselves. It is thought that this process could perhaps also be applied to other creatures, and even plants, “leading to a new class of bionic materials for ultimate applications.”
The exact ways in which this super silk can be used aren’t definitive, but the researchers think that, perhaps, it could be strong enough to catch a falling airplane; it could end up being used with fabrics, as well, and in applications where very strong and light materials are needed.